The hole in the heart of Wagnerism

The hole in the heart of Wagnerism


norman lebrecht

October 05, 2020

My monthly essay for The Critic has just gone upon its website. I have shared some thoughts on polarised attitudes to Richard Wagner and his role in history.

Much as I admire Alex Ross’s new book, I take issue with his claim that Richard Wagner was ‘the most widely influential figure in the history of music’. He wasn’t.

… At the risk of undermining his own thesis, Ross quotes Nietzsche in advocating that no statement should ever be made about Wagner without the word “perhaps”. I am well past 600 pages before I see the flaw in his case. Ross states that Wagner is — perhaps — the most influential figure in the history of music. He isn’t. Remove Bach and there is no history. Take out Beethoven and everything grinds to a halt. Eliminate Verdi and there is no Italian opera. Without Stravinsky, no twentieth century.

Remove Wagner, however, and the rest of music continues regardless. Wagner is a one-off, an ego, a restless provocateur. To Wagnerites, he’s the fusion of all arts. To Wagner-sceptics like me, he’s a genetic anomaly, a genius without anxiety.

Read the full article here,



  • Alan Overton says:

    John Cage never improvised. He thoroughly disapproved of it as a musical activity. So I don’t know where you got that from.

    • John Borstlap says:

      He improvised as a preparation for 4’33” when he sat still, after his meal of champignons, and did or said nothing for hours.

      • José Bergher says:

        Before the champignons, Cage ate a generous serving of Pizza Putanesca with sauerkraut and pickle juice.

  • F. P. Walter says:

    An ultra-lavish word salad, Norman. How about paying more attention to the ACTUAL CONTENT of the mature operas? Meistersinger tackles the generation gap and elders oppressing the next generation … the Ring shows how long it takes to rectify a crime when the forces of law & order are corrupt. Aren’t these issues worth exploring, rather than the hoary old stuff about Wagner being the galaxy’s most vile human being?

  • Doc Martin says:

    If your house was burning down what 12 CDs,LPs, 78s would you grab from the inferno, not Gotterdammerung!

    I have a pile of 12 selected CDs/Lps etc in a wee box which I treasure in case of such an emergency, like a overnight case for hospital, RW is not in the list.

    • Geezer says:

      Yes Wagner is best confined to the flames of history. I see only sycophants without any talent plagiarise his chromatic shifts to extremes. He is definitely overrated. What have all the wrong noters given us but cacophony.

    • Pianofortissimo says:

      Curious about your list.

    • Paul Dawson says:

      Rather small scale thinking on your part, methinks. Following a gratifyingly unmusical burglary, I digitised my entire CD collection, retrievable from several sources. Exactly 250 Wagner CDs, including 19 complete versions of “that para-Christian rite.”

    • A Pianist says:

      “Remind me to buy up all the Wagner records in New York…and get a chainsaw.” — Woody Allen

    • Stuart says:

      My wee box is an ipod and it contains 23,000 tracks. It is backed up to the cloud. I would hate to lose my house to fire, but I do not have to worry about my music library. Complete operas of Wagner, and Verdi and Rossini and lots of Beethoven, Mahler and Mozart. No need to choose what to take.

    • Larry D says:

      I’d worry about saving your butt from the flames. You can buy anything you desire later if you’re still alive.

    • Charles says:

      Good for you. But even though you’re delighted with yourself, the sad truth Is you’re not capable of appreciating some of the world’s greatest music.

    • Charles says:

      You are delighted with yourself. But sadly you are incapable of responding to some of the greatest music ever composed.

  • Wagner is it says:

    utter nonsense and obviously wrong. Without Wagner there would be no 20th century, no Mahler, no Schönberg, no Shostakovich. He changed music history like Bach, like Monteverdi, like Josquin. His way of thinking about music and organizing his scores cannot be compared with any composer before – not even with Schumann, Weber or Mendelssohn. without Stravinsky there would be a 20th century, but maybe no british-american composers copying him.

    • Doc Martin says:

      20th century music, ugh! I think you are over exaggerating his influence.

    • Jack Burt says:

      Thank you for saving me the time of having to reply! Well said. The point of Ross’ book is that like it or not, everyone after Wagner had to make a decision about what they were going to do. Not just musicians, but poets, playwrights, painters… Ross may overplay his hand a bit, but the basic fact is inarguable: Love him or hate him, you had to deal with Wagner.

      • John Borstlap says:

        Even in the valleys of Guatamala the village people get together once a year to discuss what to do about Wagner. They never got to a definite conclusion, like the music.

        (Source: The Guatamalan Wagner Society Magazine)

    • Tom Bombadil says:

      I just don’t believe it. Look at the appalling stuff composed between 1950-1999, then look at what rubbish has been composed between 2000-2020, that says it all. Pop music has also gone to the dogs too.

      • Sue Sonata Form says:


      • Stuart says:

        Lots of wonderful compositions during those years as well. There is alot of “appalling stuff” or rubbish composed between 1800 and 1899, and between 1700 and 1799 (I could go on…)

      • John Borstlap says:

        The worst has been composed in the month April-December 1973, with a particular disastrous episode on the afternoon of 14 June from 15:30 onwards.

    • Stuart says:

      The statement ‘Without Wagner there would be no 20th century, no Mahler, no Schönberg, no Shostakovich’ is an extreme view, but no more or less extreme than NL’s ‘Remove Wagner, however, and the rest of music continues regardless’. Both views are a big stretch.

    • Patricia says:

      Without Handel, Haydn and Mozart, there would be no music. I can not say “Thou” to Wagner.

  • Ken says:

    Without Schoenberg — hence Wagner — no twentieth century. Schoenberg-Berg-Webern/
    Stravinsky/Bartók/Scriabin pretty much gave collective birth to 20th century “classical” music.

    • Tom Bombadil says:

      And now look at the music we have in 2020 ugh! Even Pop has gone to the dogs.

    • Sorry, but Debussy was the composer who opened the path for all 20th century music. Ask living composers themselves who is the greatest influence. Most will instantly say Debussy. Wagner was the culmination of romanticism, the “end” of the 19th century. His influence is heard mostly in
      movie scores. As for Wagner haters, my condolences. His characters are more real than any in Italian or French opera. They express and deal with universal challenges and obstacles. As for the music, for me it is divine, complex, original and just plain beautiful. Anyone who loves German lieder or
      18th century baroque church music can appreciate Wagner, who built upon all of these. By the way Schumann’s music was great influence on Wagner. Check out his Songs from Goethe’s Faust, and Paradise and the Peri, arguably his greatest works.
      My desert island piece, if I am stranded there is, without hesitation, Meistersinger. With the pandemic now I fear that I will never see it live again. I will mourn.

      • William Safford says:

        I agree with what you wrote about Debussy.

        However, how much would Debussy have been the Debussy whose music we love, had it not been for Wagner?

        Debussy clearly had a tug-of-war with Wagner: parodizes him in Golliwog’s Cakewalk, yet was influenced by him–both in what Debussy assimilated and in what he eschewed–in Pelleas.

        • John Borstlap says:

          True. Debussy turned the expansive Wagnerian continuum into an intimate, spiritualized fluidum, helped by – of all people! – Mussorgsky.

    • May says:

      Don’t forget Debussy and Strauss. I haven’t read AR’s book however what always amazes me is how Wagner is separated from Liszt Any sentence that contains “Wagner” and “revolutionary” should begin with Liszt.

  • David says:

    I can’t disagree…

    But its such lovely anomaly.

  • Elizabeth Owen says:

    I expect you read Cosima Wagner’s diaries when they came out. What a disgusting couple made me feel sick.

    • Les says:

      I thought the issue was the extent of Wagner’s influence on music, but all you can do is leap in with a classic piece of witless virtue signalling.

    • Jane says:

      Yes they were a pair of frauds really. Imagine being stuck with them in a lifeboat in the North Sea!

      • Stuart says:

        Yes, Fraud – that’s the word that goes through my head every time I listen to one of the Ring operas, to Meistersinger or to Tristan….

        • John Borstlap says:

          According to famous psychiatrist Sigmund Fraud the Wagner operas hold archetypal images which awaken suppressed instinctive drives. Since the operas became famous and popular, psychoanalysis has taken flight, because so many neuroses bubbled to the surface which had been dormant peacefully in the recesses of the psyche of 19C bourgeois middleclasses.

      • Larry D says:

        What a bizarre hypothetical! I can’t think of any composer that would be a plus to be stuck in a lifeboat with in the North Sea. Was Mozart good at navigating by the stars?

  • Gustavo says:

    Gustav Mahler (1904):

    “Jetzt halte ich bei Beethoven. Es giebt nur den und Richard [Wagner] — und sonst nichts!!”

    How on Earth even think of removing Wagner!?

  • Jack says:

    Well Norman, Wagner did happen and what followed had much to do with what he contributed to the art form.

    I suspect music history will continue to affirm this fact and quickly forget inconsequential conclusions like yours. Wagner is much bigger than you.

  • Lancelot Spratt says:

    Anna Russell seems to know how to discuss Wagner!

    • Sisko24 says:

      Ah yes, the great ‘La Russell’. The greatest Wagnerian soprano ever!

    • Sue Sonata Form says:

      Surely the inspiration behind Mrs. Bouquet!! (Bucket) It’s mildly funny, but has aged an awful lot.

    • William Safford says:

      Love it! I heard her perform it in one of her numerous farewell concerts.

      I much prefer it to the actual Ring. 🙂

      “That’s the gimmick.” — LOL

  • John Borstlap says:

    “My impression is that minorities, be they sexual or religious, are drawn to Wagner by a perception of permissiveness and transgression. His operas breach Biblical taboos of adultery and incest. He wants to destroy the world that prejudices those who differ from the norm. He speaks for those who have no voice, hurling their missiles in the face of a worshipful establishment, making the elites at grand opera houses humbly submissive to his art.”

    A very sharp observation, I agree entirely.

    Upon W’s place within music culture, other comments have exhausted most of the point. A possible addition: W’s greatest invention is the continuum, not only in terms of timing but harmonically and melodically, stretching the tonal system into a malleable space instead of a well-ordered framework. This gave the cue to Debussy, and from him all 20C music sprang.

    W’s so-called ‘androginy’ was, according to historical evidence and signals, not sexual but emotional, hence his fondness of theatrical feminine outfits. He loathed the average male’s lack of sensitivity and its domination and contempt of nature, including women. In spite of his being an ugly little nervous man, his uninhibited emotionalism made him very attractive to both sexes, and provoked deep revulsion in more disciplined people. He hated the cool, hard stone-faced façade of the cultural ‘manliness’ of his time, and idolized ‘woman’; his earliest fans were, inevitably, women, who suddenly woke-up from their bourgeois slumber amidst dried flower bouquets and infinite boredom.

    • Lancelot Spratt says:

      In the final analysis John, his greatest failing is that he lacked of a sense of humour. Many Germans even tell me he his boring!

      What is life or indeed a world without humour?

      • John Borstlap says:

        Wagner had a rather German sense of humour (see Meistersinger which is not funny at all for non-Germans). But sometimes he had real humorous reactions, like when his dog once barked at him: ‘What’s this??! Barking at the great Wagner?!’ Or when his wife Cosima circulated through the room, ruefully thinking of Hans von Bulow about whom she felt terribly guilty: ‘You’re wearing your catholic face again today!’ (She notated this in her diary, fully unaware of the wit, describing how the remark added to her suffering.)

        • John Borstlap says:

          There’s another one but I’m not sure whether it falls under ‘humour’:

          When in a newspaper article, an extensive review of one of his operas, the critic mentioned that the composer was known for ‘hating the press’, Wagner sent-in a letter to the editor which was duly published: ‘I’m sorry to have to correct you: I don’t hate the press, I merely hold them in profound contempt’.

    • Sue Sonata Form says:

      Women were bored by their ‘bourgeois slumber’? I thought they were enjoying ‘white privilege’. It cannot be both!!

    • Marfisa says:

      Emend last three words: to infinite boredom?

  • Magnus Pyke says:

    This discussion topic will certainly bring out the wind up merchants en mass! Opinion on Wagner is so heated and polarised, like Marmite you either like his stuff or hate it.

    If I were a composer in 2020, I would try not to be influenced by his stuff at all or any of the subsequent stuff from last century. I would not wish to compromise my originality.

    Music of the 21st century must begin anew, wrong notes, minimalism, serialism etc are all blind alleys.

  • Lancelot Spratt says:

    Wagner claimed he based all his music on Beethoven’s ninth, so removing Beethoven would have a much bigger impact. Wagner could not exist without Beethoven ergo Beethoven is more significant.

    • Phil the fluter says:

      Yes Wagner claimed all sorts of odd things being a self taught composer.

      He is certainly no Andrew Lloyd Webber! Can you imagine Wagner doing Cats!

    • Gulliver says:

      Alas he knew not Alexander Pope.

      Music resembles poetry–in each
      Are nameless graces which no methods teach,
      And which a master hand alone can reach

  • Gustavo says:

    Remove Mozart and the Universe implodes.

  • Cynical Bystander says:

    Wagner is for the young, or at least the middle aged. As one gets older he palls in much the same way as interest in sex, the practice rather than the theory, does. I’m speaking from a personal perspective clearly. There are just so many Liebestods that one can sit through, rather as one looks in the mirror and sees that it’s not just the gods that are in their twilight.

    • John Borstlap says:

      A rather nihilistic take. Numerous are the elderly men who marry young, demanding wives and begin a 2nd nest. There are even young rugby stars who chase old men. Be more confident!

  • F. P. Walter says:

    Good grief, people — all this shrieking, yammering, foot-stomping, finger-pointing, either-or generalizing, and hatred of fact-finding! Nobody’s being forced to listen to Wagner’s operas, and they’re ALL that’s important about him — without them he’d be long dead and forgotten. So everything else is clutter, including his life, writings, and grandchildren.

    If you don’t like his music, ignore it and get on with your lives. What are so many of you afraid of?

  • Escamillo says:

    Is your name Eduard Hanslick, by any chance?

    • F. P. Walter says:

      Hanslick signed his full name to his anti-Wagnerian shrieking and foot-stomping. You, by contrast, shall remain anonymous.

      • John Borstlap says:

        Hanslick never stamped his foot. His reviews on the Ring and Parsifal are brilliant pieces of witty irony and apt observation. He underestimated W’s purely musical achievement but got W’s flaws quite well into focus.

        • F. P. Walter says:

          Your remarks sadden me, John. Apparently it’s been years since you’ve actually READ Hanslick. Here are a few of the vehement dismissals found in the Penguin anthology of his reviews, as translated by Henry Pleasants:

          –LOHENGRIN: “I find as little to admire in the text as in the music … the diction is bombastic … on every page there are tasteless verses …” (p. 59); “little more than a continuous fluctuation of featureless fluid tonal matter.” (p. 64).

          –TRISTAN: “Intolerably boring musical exposition … linguistic horrors … desperate poetic impotence.” (pp. 216-18); “hardly anyone can bear [Act 3’s] awful length”; “the overall impression of the work … remains one of oppressive fatigue.” (p. 226).

          –MEISTERSINGER: “Wagner’s music … is stilted, profuse, even repulsive;” (p. 118); “the opera … is hardly to be regarded as a creation of profound originality or lasting truth and beauty.” (p. 122).

          –DER RING DES NIBELUNGEN: “the listener … leaves with the impression of utter monotony”; “the second act [of Walküre] is an abyss of boredom”; [Siegfried I,ii] “is an oppressive bore;” “Wagner’s Ring … would have to be described as depressing;” (pp. 145-147)

          Again, John, please purchase and read this Penguin volume. It confirms that Hanslick was indeed vehement and vituperative in his opposition to Wagner … and it’s currently available at Ebay under books, “Hanslick’s Music Criticisms.”

          Otherwise, John, kindly remember that it was the anonymous Señor Escamillo who dragged Hanslick into this exchange, not I. My reply honored Hanslick for his decency in signing his full name to his negative comments, unlike the finger-pointing, nameless trolls who keep defacing Norman’s blog.

          Accordingly, to those trolls I resend my original closing words:

          “Nobody’s being forced to listen to Wagner’s operas, and they’re ALL that’s important about him — without them he’d be long dead and forgotten. So everything else is clutter, including his life, writings, and grandchildren.
          If you don’t like his music, ignore it and get on with your lives.

          “What are so many of you afraid of?”

          • John Borstlap says:

            Yes, those remarks are nonsensical (except some of them, like calling Walkure II boring, which is certainly is, and calling Siegfried a bore which is true). But I thought of Hanslick’s extensive review of the Ring production in Vienna in 1879, which is quite balanced, and his hilarious discussion of ‘Parsifal literature’ in 1882 which explores the absurdist attempts of Wagnerian ‘musicologists’ to ‘explain’ the opera’s plot, as given in: ‘Richard Wagner and his World’, ed. Thomas S. Grey, Princeton University Press 2009. These are rather late writings when Hanslick had come to a more balanced view on Wagner’s art, but still had his objections.

            He was not totally wrong in much of his critique, but failed to grasp the transgressive music which carries the plots instead of the other way around as was usual in those days. If you don’t ‘get’ the music, the plots appear often unconvincing and their ‘meaning’ incomprehensible.

  • Akutagawa says:

    “The German word for megalomania is Grossenwahn, or grand delusion.”

    Actually, the German word for megalomania is Größenwahn. There’s really no excuse in the age of electronic media and limitless font options to misrender nonstandard characters.

  • Peter San Diego says:

    Wagner would not have been who he was without Meyerbeer, Beethoven, Berlioz and Liszt.
    Beethoven would not have been who he was without Haydn, Mozart, Handel and the Bachs (CPE *and* JS).
    Bach (JS) would not have been who he was without Buxtehude, etc.
    This sort of argument leads to the conclusion that European art music would not be as we know it without Hildegard of Bingen — so perhaps she is the essential composer.

    • John Borstlap says:

      I could not live without my Hildegard CD collection! When I get exhausted by my joyless job, I turn to her for consolation and sleep.


      • John Borstlap says:

        Last week she was late every morning because of Hildegard. Also many typos in the letters. Her excuse was that all harmony in her soul had been consumed-up by medieval purity.

  • Doc Martin says:

    I came across this interesting report in BMJ from Göbel at the Headache clinic in Kiel. Apparently Wagner suffered from bad migraine and it suggests it may have influenced Siegfried.

    Attempting to correlate the condition of a composer with his compositions can be fraught with problems as is demonstrated by the interesting article of Goebel and colleagues. The title of this article is even in question as the original words of Mime are “Zwangfolle Plage! Műh ohne Zweck”, which could equally be translated as “Compulsive plague, trouble without end”, noting the use of Műh rather than the more commonly used German word for pain, namely Schmerz. This relates to the continuing trouble that Mime had in trying to forge together the shattered fragments of the sword Notung, as a result of the intervention of Wotan who shattered it to stop Siegmund beating Hunding in battle. Mime was a master craftsman, whose skill at the forge was without equal, yet he was incapable of forging the sword, hence his great frustration, and, indeed, trouble without end.

    The other problem is in taking Siegfried on its own, when the leitmotif has to be taken in the ring cycle as a whole. It is noted from the letter quoted in the article that Wagner had no trouble with composing Rheingold, but it is here that the themes first appear. The “migraine headache leitmotif” is the theme of the dwarf smiths in the underworld (Rheingold Scene 3), and is forever associated with smithing. Similarly the “migraine aura leitmotif” finds its first appearance in Rheingold with the appearance of Loge, who is the God of fire and lies as well as the patron off smiths. This appears again in Act 3 of Valkyrie when Wotan summons Loge to make the ring of fire which shall protect Brunhilde from only the bravest of the brave.

    Therefore, although the arguments put forward by Goebel and colleagues are interesting, I do not feel that the context of the leitmotifs in the Ring cycle as a whole can support their theory. It is very difficult to interpret music in the light of the situation of the composer unless there are clear signs that the work should be taken as autobiographical, such as in the first string quartet of Smetana, entitled “From my life”. The very title indicates the autobiographical nature, and includes in the final movement a very clear portrayal of his tinnitus.

    • John Borstlap says:

      All music is created as an attempt to reduce the suffering from physical ailments. Not only Wagner’s piles, but Bach’s back itches, Mozart’s arm pit infections, Chopin’s corona, Brahms’ tooth aches, Mahler’s wife, Debussy’s indigestion, Scriabine’s ingrown toe nails, etc. This is proven by the perfect health of Hummel, Meyerbeer, Raff, Saint-Saens, Xenakis, Boulez, etc.

      • Doc Martin says:

        Yes Wagner’s piles must have inspired the Ring. By an odd coincidence one can buy an inflatable ring shaped cushion to alleviate the effect of them, they must sell like hot cakes at Bayreuth!

        John, Chopin had TB not cov-19! Liszt had bad teeth.

        • John Borstlap says:

          There’s faint evidence that the current strain of covid-19 has been dormant for 190 years since Chopin had a Chinese noodle delivery in 1830.

  • Doc Martin says:

    An editorial monograph in the Lancet I encountered some years ago, remarked on some of Wagner’s medical problems. Wagner like many Germans in the 19th century was obsessed with his bowel movements!

    The composer’s first visit to a health Spa occurred as early as 1834 when the 21-year-old checked into a spa in Teplitz with his friend Theodor Appel.

    As he grew older, Wagner became increasingly troubled by skin and bowel complaints, in particular erysipelas, haemorrhoids and what sounds like almost terminal flatulence.

    Good health was to prove as elusive for Wagner as the Holy Grail, while his quest for a decent bowel movement was akin to the wanderings of his hero Parsifal.

    Never one for half measures, 1843 finds Wagner attempting to drink vast quantities of spa water to cure his abdominal complaints, giving it up, as he lamented to his wife Minna, when he almost soiled the bed.

    In 1851 he went the whole hog, checking in for a two-month cure at Dr Zacharia Brunner’s Hydrotherapy Institute at Albisbrunn, some 10 miles from his home in Zurich.

  • Greg Bottini says:

    It’s an interesting article, Norman – thanks for sharing it with us.
    I agree with many points you make, but this statement: “Remove Bach and there is no history (of music). Take out Beethoven and everything grinds to a halt. Eliminate Verdi and there is no Italian opera. Without Stravinsky, no twentieth century” is simply absurd.
    Bach was certainly appreciated by composers and keyboard players for his many musical skills and attributes, but it’s difficult to say that he had much direct influence on the course of music after his time, and he was considered pretty esoteric until eighty years after his death.
    Beethoven was a massive influence, true, but not an all-or-nothing influence. Chopin would certainly have existed without him – Mendelssohn too.
    No Italian opera without Verdi? How about Rossini, Donizetti and Bellini? No twentieth century without Stravinsky? How about Debussy, Strauss, and Mahler?

  • Ricardo Jimenez says:

    It was only a low probability accident that any particular person ever existed, a highly low probability event. I would think it highly probable that the music of Bach, Beethoven, Wagner and Stravinsky is inferior to others who might have existed but were never born. Music has evolved through the efforts of many thousands or perhaps millions of musicians. If you throw out the music of the above four, I don’t see why the kind of music composed in the last 300 years by others would be that much different than what it is. The development of harmony, counterpoint, instrumentation, etc. would have continued to what it is at present without them.

  • B. Guerrero says:

    Norman, I think you should stop with the ‘polarization’ routine. If you don’t like Wagner, you don’t like Wagner. So be it. Everybody is quite aware that he wasn’t the nicest person in the world. What he said about Jews was both nasty and tragically unfortunate. I think he did it greatly to keep Liszt and Cosima happy (Cosima was far worse!). However, you can’t hang the atrocities of the nazis on Wagner – the nazis were responsible for their own atrocities. There was plenty of antisemitism to go around. Wagner wasn’t there. Put blame where the blame really belongs. And by the way, the current generation of Germans aren’t responsible either, other than the neo-nazi minority.

    • John Borstlap says:

      The reason why people in music life still find the person RW a problem, is that so many of the stories are entirely incompatible with the beauty and grandeur, and especially the nobility of the music. We assume, on good grounds, that a fruit is related to the tree from which it falls.

    • Allen says:

      “There was plenty of antisemitism to go around.”

      There certainly was, and Wagner didn’t invent it, he was just foolish enought to put it down on paper so that we could spend the next 140 years talking about it.

      Wouldn’t it be a better use of our time to discuss antisemitism in 2020? Maybe we could actually DO something about that.

      • Von Schneider says:

        Or perhaps the Jews, like NL, who constantly bring up the anti-semitism of Wagner and others could be more critical to the way Israel treats its own ethnic minorities? Israel’s lebensraum policies and modern-day Nuremberg laws are shameful. It’s hypocrisy of the highest order to constantly point out the moral depravities of others but blatantly disregard one’s own.

    • engineers_unite says:

      And what about Bruckner who deified Wagner?
      Without Wagner Wesendonk and the Ring, Bruckner’s vast soundscapes would probably never have happened.
      How would you feel being denied Anton’s great symphonies?

      What would a serious musician like say Strauss, Kleiber or Celibidache have written about your nonsense?

  • Fiddlist says:

    Indeed. Seems like quite a few previously objective, rational and accomplished American music journalists have gone “off the deep end” recently.

  • David K. Nelson says:

    As I write this, 74 comments, on-topic, in two days. See what influence Wagner can exert?

    • John Borstlap says:

      British composer Alexander Goehr, son of conductor Walter Goehr who was a friend of Schoenberg, and himself a brilliant Jewish-Schoenbergian mind but a very mediocre composer, said of Wagner’s potential influence on composers – even contemporary ones: ‘We always come back to Wagner, but it is a bit like throwing-out a tasty bait and sinking with the line’.

  • David G says:

    What a load of rubbish! You just added another useless treatise to the heap of nonsense about Wagner. Yes, Wagner hated Jews. No, he didn’t invent National Socialism. His music was very influential to Debussy, Richard Strauss, Schoenberg, and others. Wagner’s musical anomalies, especially in Tristan, certainly did change the course of music. When you boil it down, Wagner was a remarkably interesting composer, not a god, as the crazy Wagnerites insist. You can say the same about Callas; she was a remarkably interesting singer, but the Callas-worshippers have turned her into something she was not. And as someone who visits immediate family in Israel every year, I still don’t understand the Wagner ban. It just gives his legacy even more power. And the Israelis have no problem driving German cars, listening to German pop music, and buying German goods. That attitude, along with yet another thesis about Wagner’s power, gives him an aura he hasn’t earned. I gladly listen to him because I find his works so damn interesting! But I don’t keep him on a separate shelf or light candles!

  • Alexander T says:

    “Remove Wagner….continues regardless.”
    No Wagner:no Mahler, Schonberg,Berg, Webern, Strauss…..
    No Schönberg:no twentieth-century music

  • BrianB says:

    J.S. Bach was irrelevant to the later development of music until nearly a century after his death. In the meantime, the art developed continually independent of him. One could actually argue that J.C. Bach had much more influence than his father on composers like Mozart. J.S. certainly influenced 20th century music in the Back to Bach movements. Beethoven thought, not Bach, but Handel was the greatest composer who had ever lived and his music was much better known until the Bach Gesellschaft Ausgabe began publication in 1850. Chrysander’s work on Handel began only eight years later.
    Without Tristan you do not have the future developments of Schoenberg, and indeed without Wagner you have no reaction against Wagner which is what really led to the neoclassical and sparser developments of 20th century music. Ross is fundamentally correct.

    • Humbug says:

      I think you are wrong. Why do you see the wrong note tuneless wonders brigade as a development in music. It is a blind alley, no one wants 12 note anymore. 20th Century music is rubbish especially from the 50s-99!

  • Doc Martin says:

    The one thing which stands out in all Wagner’s operas is a consistent lack of a sense of humour.

    During a pause in a Brahms lieder recital at the Philharmonie, Berlin I once asked the person (a Berliner) next to me if they liked Wagner, the response was emphatically no he is boring! I said well Meistersinger is a comedy is it not? Reply, not really its boring. I said well in that case Wagner seems to make his audience suffer between 3-4 hours for nothing then.

    What is life without a sense of humour? The Germans do have a odd sense of humour, however it is not like ours.

    • John Borstlap says:

      How can we possibly enjoy classical music withouth a good laugh? I miss that in all Bach, Mozart, Beethoven, Chopin, Brahms Wagner, Mahler, etc. etc. – even 20C music has no laughs. But maybe I’m in the wrong hall.

      • Marfisa says:

        No laughs in Mozart? Come on! You miss out that master of musical humour, Haydn. And Bach can be quite jolly too, if you know where to look. Even Beethoven has the odd ponderous joke. And, skipping lightly over the romantic and heavily Germanic eras, is 4’33” entirely unfunny? (But of course it is hard to know when you yourself are being serious …)

      • Doc Martin says:

        My point is my experience of Germans (Berliners) is they are a dour lot full of angst without much humour. One can enjoy Mozart, Bach etc, but Wagner is an acquired taste John.

    • McBreen says:

      Yes Wagner is rather boring. Best avoided.

    • Boz says:

      Berliners are renowned for their rudeness, I have met Germans who do not like Wagner too, he is not everybody’s cup of tea, he is not a desert island disc for sure.

    • Larry says:

      Sense of humour and Germans. Don’t mention the war.

  • Doofus1714 says:

    “Remove Bach and there is no history…”
    that is simply not true. Bach had precious little immediate influence on the course of Western music…this is no comment on his music itself, but the comment is patently wrong, sorry.
    yes Beethoven had a huge impact, but every composer in the 2nd half od the 19th century had to come to terms with Wagner. Despicable man, yes.
    Less than very important figure in the history of Western Music, no!

    • William Safford says:

      J.S. Bach had a lot of influence, even if removed by a generation through his sons. For example, Mozart studied with J.C. Bach, who, of course, was one of J.S. Bach’s sons. You can hear a great deal of J.C. Bach’s influence in early adult Mozart works such as the first and second violin concerti and the bassoon concerto. Just listen to the two J.C. Bach bassoon concerti, then the Mozart concerto–you’ll hear it.

      That’s without getting into all the composers who studied J.S. Bach’s music, even if it wasn’t being performed.

      I’m not exactly contradicting you, I’m just pointing out that it’s complicated.

      • Marfisa says:

        It is great to be able to agree with you on this. I am an enthusiast for Johann Christian’s music for its own sake, not just for Mozart. I do think, though, that the influence of J.S. on J.C. is negative. J.C. certainly learnt the essentials from J.S., but his music is otherwise everything that J.S.’s is not. He may also have been reacting against the heavy hand of his half-brother C.P. E. in Berlin, to whom he was sent at 15 when J.S. died. C.P.E. idolized the father. J.C. escaped nimbly and quickly to Italy and the teaching of Padre Martini, adopted the Italian style of church music as an organist in Milan, and then made a Europe-wide name for himself in opera at Mannheim and Paris, before settling in London and partnering with Carl Friedrich Abel, another Leipzig pupil of J.S. (his father was a colleague of J.S. at Köthen). I would love to know whether J.C. talked to the 8-year old Mozart about his father, and if so, what he said. Did the Leopold/Wolfgang relationship remind J.C. of J.S? (Sorry, off topic, I know.)