Selected Letters of Richard Wagner

Stewart Spencer, Editor, Richard Wagner, Author, Barry Millington, Editor W. W. Norton & Company $35 (1030p) ISBN 978-0-393-02500-2
In all his guisesbrother, husband, father, lover, betrayer; supplicant, scrounger, wheedler; author, conductor, great composerRichard Wagner is here, in 500 annotated, newly translated letters, some never before printed in their entirety, others appearing for the first time. Reflecting Wagner's complex, moody, self-absorbed, passionate nature, the letters are introduced in six masterful essay sections by two British music scholars. Wagner addresses Meyerbeer as ""My deeply revered Lord and Master'' and signs himself ``Your ardently respectful and obedient servant,'' then attacks him in letters to Schumann and others. He tries to placate his jealous wife Minna when she discovers yet another of his many infidelities, then complains to a friend about how difficult she makes life for him. He carries on love affairs with the wives of friends but, even after his separation from Minna, continues to take responsibility for her material comfort. He goes on lying to King Ludwig II, his principal supporter, even after the king discovers Wagner's deceits. He tells Ludwig that he considers ``the Jewish race the born enemy of pure humanity and all that is noble in man,'' then, when it suits his own needs, he makes use of Jewish musicians like Hermann Levi and Joseph Rubinstein. He urges young Nietzsche to moderate the expressions of his radical, unconventional views. He shows his chauvinistic ``sense of humor'' in a letter to Hans Richter discussing his own tasteless farce Eine Kapitulation in which he makes fun of the privations suffered by the French during the siege of Paris in 1870. Yet, when he writes about Beethoven or about other musical matters, he is capable of sobriety and sensitivity, and he is concerned that people without means should be able to attend performances at Bayreuth. A basic source for future biographers and a treat for all Wagnerians. (May)
Reviewed on: 04/25/1988
Release date: 05/01/1988
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