RIP British Wagnerite, 89

RIP British Wagnerite, 89


norman lebrecht

July 26, 2019

The philosopher Bryan Magee, author of the hugely influential Aspects of Wagner (1968) and The Tristan Chord: Wagner and Philosophy (2001), died today aged 89.


  • Silversled says:

    Another huge loss. How very sad. My condolences to his friends and family.

    • M.Arnold says:

      A long and important life of a brilliant and influential man but, Norman, a wagnerite is some sort of phosphate mineral. Shouldn’t it be Wagnerian?

      • Sixtus says:

        Wagnerite is a proper designation with an illustrious history, most prominently with GB Shaw’s The Perfect Wagnerite. I myself use ‘Wagnerian’ as an adjective (e.g. Hänsel und Gretel is a Wagnerian opera). I refer to Wagner’s operas as Wagner operas. Not all of them are Wagnerian. The earliest of them try, unsuccessfully, to be Bellinian/Weberian.

      • John Borstlap says:

        If Magee was a ‘wagnerian’ he was a selective one, as can be read in his writing on the composer. ‘Real’ wagnerians are fanatics who have succumbed to the Wagnerian sorcery and lost a crucial bit of their intellectual capacities.

      • Wotan says:

        George Bernard Shaw wrote “The Perfect Wagnerite!, (a Commentary on the Ring originally published London, 1898) after seeing the second production in Bayreuth in 1896. So I think Norman is fully justified in describing Bryan Magee as a “Wagnerite”. You might almost say “The Perfect Wagnerite” and a great loss indeed.

      • John Deathridgwe says:

        No. Wagnerite is Shavian. Supposed to be “Perfect”. Magee tried. Bless him. Knowing full well it’s bloody hard …

      • John Deathridge says:

        misspelt own name. sorry!

  • Paul Dawson says:

    His two Wagner books are essential reading. Superb scholarship. R.I.P.

  • Fourth Norn says:

    His writings on Wagner are among the very best and most inspiring – thoroughly researched, insightful, and they avoid the revisionist biases that disfigure so many others. A writer of lasting importance.

  • John Borstlap says:

    A brilliant man. His ‘Aspects of Wagner’ is the most concise and short booklet on Wagner in existence, and still offers some of the best insights.

  • John Mauceri says:

    Still the best–and shortest–book on Wagner.

    • Francis Schwartz says:

      Thank you, John. Good recommendation.

    • John Borstlap says:

      There exist miniature editions of the Koran, which one can only read with a magnifying glass. I look forward to such an edition of Magee’s ‘Aspects of Wagner’, to compensate for the loads of heavy tomes which are still in the process of being produced.

  • Peter says:

    Read his ‘Confessions of a Philosopher’ as well as his brilliant Wagner books. He’s left us all with a great legacy of insights and commentary.

  • YB Schragadove says:

    RIP and my condolences. I was fascinated by “The Tristan Chord”. A brilliant work.

  • PeterSD says:

    The New York Times has just posted the obituary of M. Owen Lee, CSB, priest and opera expert, also the author of books on Wagner, including the short but splendid Wagner: The Terrible Man and His Truthful Art.

    RIP to both Mr Magee and Fr Lee.

    • Marshall says:

      Glad someone mentioned this-surprised Mr. Lebrecht didn’t jump on it as a good example of the dumbing down of the Met opera under Gelb. The old Met intermission features could be fun, but also informative, sometimes as with Father Lee, miniature audio essays. Today the features are pretty much unlistenable. And can we end the practice of these interviews as the breathless singers leave the stage-what junk. Imagine Jon Vickers agreeing to something like that while he was singing Tristan?

  • Eugene Gaub says:

    Coincidentally, M. Owen Lee, the much-loved author of another indispensable short book on Wagner: “Wagner’s Ring: Turning the Sky Round,” died yesterday in Toronto.

  • Greg Bottini says:

    “Aspects of Wagner” – simply brilliant.
    I offer my sincere condolences to Mr. Magee’s family and friends.

  • Sandrey Date says:

    How extraordinary that The Times obituary made no mention of his writings on Wagner

  • Eddie Burke says:

    I’m not surprised by the standard of the presenters they’re employing