Leonard Bernstein presenting “Thus Spake Richard Strauss”

On this day in 1971, Leonard Bernstein presented “Thus Spake Richard Strauss”, a Young People’s Concert.
Bernstein explained to a national television audience Strauss’ Zarathustra “is a picture of man’s greatest problem — his mortality, the grim fact that he must die. This painful problem is shown in terms of a conflict…in musical terms: the struggle between one key and another, between one theme and another, between major and minor, between music that lifts us up and music that presses us down.
That’s going up, for sure; and clearly it’s in the key of C. Good old C – no sharps or flats, all white keys, no problems – bright and clear. And that’s why Strauss builds his introduction on this rising motive, because it’s supposed to depict a glorious sunrise…but with the sun arises the first conflict: that’s the conflict of major and minor.”


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