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Richard Wagner


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Leipzig, Germany (1813 – 1883)

Wilhelm Richard Wagner (22nd May 1813 in Leipzig, Germany – 13th February 1883 in Venice, Italy) was an influential German composer, conductor, music theorist, and essayist, primarily known for his s (or “music dramas” as he later came to call them). His compositions, particularly those of his later period, are notable for their contrapuntal texture, rich harmonies and orchestration, and elaborate use of leitmotifs: themes associated with specific characters, locales, or plot elements. Wagner’s chromatic musical language prefigured later developments in European classical music (Anton Bruckner, Gustav Mahler, Richard Strauss et al), including extreme chromaticism and atonality (Alban Berg, Anton Webern, Arnold Schönberg et al). He transformed musical thought through his idea of Gesamtkunstwerk (“total art-work”), epitomized by his monumental four-opera cycle Der Ring des Nibelungen (1876). His concept of leitmotif and integrated musical expression was also a strong influence on many 20th century film scores.

Wagner was and remains a controversial figure, both for his musical and dramatic innovations, and for his anti-semitic and political opinions. Wagner was one of Adolf Hitler’s favorite composers; the composer’s influence on him has been a subject of heated debate ever since the end of World War II.


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  • oranje31


    7 Sep 1:44pm Reply
  • Absurd93

    I suspect the break between Wagner and Nietzsche ultimately stemmed from the latter's rejection of Schopenhauerian philosophy, which had had a major influence upon Wagner's work since Tannhäuser. Nietzsche, whilst initially favourable to Schopenhauer, came to reject the idea of self-denial, and instead sought to establish a philosophy which affirmed life. Hence, it's understandable why he would oppose Parsifal on philosophical grounds, given that the opera's libretto stresses the need to reject the material world and the urges of the will. The issue was not that Wagner had possibly become a Christian. Rather, from Nietzsche's evolving perspective, Wagner had fully embraced a philosophy which - religious or not - still praised servility, chastity and the denial of the self. Parsifal, in particular, represented for Nietzsche a life-denying philosophy which he saw as being decadent, and as being ultimately harmful to the development of great individuals.

    4 Sep 2:20pm Reply
  • Seavas

    listening to HMV's potted ring cycle really does ruin all later wagner singing for you.

    27 Aug 1:12pm Reply
  • OG-Gurda

    Sadly Wagner didn't write more symphonies. But I must be happy with what he already composed.

    26 Aug 2:18am Reply
  • MonarchKingdom

    @Omen-Sinistrum: I read the most insightful description of this controversy in Bryan Magee's Wagner and Philosophy. Bryan Magee's other (very short) book on Wagner is also worth reading.

    23 Aug 3:04pm Reply
  • Omen-Sinistrum

    @MKingdom - Thanks for the clarification. I'm going to research this more (although I never particularly respected Nietzsche as a philosopher). @Candlesmoke Ha! Yes, Wagner was white - well done. The Nazi implication is ahistorical and frankly stupid.

    21 Aug 8:04pm Reply
  • candlesmoke

    aryan art.

    20 Aug 9:48pm Reply
  • MonarchKingdom

    Nietzsche disliked the topic of Parsifal (but as Nietzsche had argued previously, the subject should matter very little when discussing an artistic work's value), but he also wrote: "Moreover, apart from all irrelevant questions (as to what the use of this music can or ought to be) and on purely aesthetic grounds; has Wagner ever done anything better?" (See Wikipedia on Parsifal.) Obviously Nietzsche very much liked the music. It must also be mentioned that - as Bryan Magee has demonstrated - Nietzsche must have known that Wagner never did convert and that Wagner only mentioned Christianity in a mocking manner (moreover, Parsifal is more Buddhist or Schopenhauerist than Christian), so Nietzsche's criticism cannot have been due to Wagner's supposed Christianity. On the other hand, according to Bryan Magee Nietzsche must have had some personal reasons to attack Wagner.

    18 Aug 9:06pm Reply
  • Omen-Sinistrum

    Nietzsche disliked - I believe - Wagner's religious bias (his apparent conversion to Christianity was seen as a weakness by Nietzsche), It had very little to do with the music itself which Nietzsche praises elsewhere. If you take your musical taste from a philosopher, however, I don't think you will get very far. There is a reason they're philosophers and not musicians, or composers (although one or two have attempted music and failed - Wittgenstein being one).

    15 Aug 9:47pm Reply
  • BatooqSupersoul

    1. Nietzsche warned, in poetic verse, that Wagner’s art is not Germanic. Instead, it is similar to Italy’s Roman Catholic religion; 2. Why did Wagner write Parsifal and present the contrast between sensuality and chastity?; 3. Did Wagner, in old age, parody tragedy by freely showing a simple country boy as the ideal embodiment of ascetic chastity? If Parsifal was, however, meant seriously, then it is an expression of Wagner’s late hatred of sensuality, egotism, and life. It would then be considered to be bad art.

    13 Aug 9:15pm Reply
  • MonarchKingdom

    Nietzsche had personal reasons to attack Wagner. It had very little to nothing to do with Wagner's music.

    8 Aug 5:25pm Reply
  • OG-Gurda

    I listen to him everyday and I do not get bored yet...

    29 Jul 11:33pm Reply
  • Zittyyy

    Wer ist schon Nietzsche ! ?

    22 Jul 2:58pm Reply
  • Zittyyy

    The master ...(2)

    22 Jul 2:56pm Reply
  • falcomanka

    The master ...(1)

    19 Jul 11:29am Reply
  • OG-Gurda

    Wagner, Wagner, Wagner. Who was better than him in music, anyway? Songwritter, novelist und composer?

    19 Jul 11:09am Reply
  • Seavas

    nietzsche just recognized that mozart and bizet were the music of the übermensch.

    19 Jul 12:31am Reply
  • neezinu

    Nietzsche had a bad taste in music, apparently

    12 Jul 6:57pm Reply
  • neezinu

    ''Is Wagner actually a man? Is he not rather a disease? Everything he touches falls ill: he has made music sick'' - Freidrich Nietzsche (in 1889)

    12 Jul 6:57pm Reply
  • OG-Gurda

    The master ...

    30 Jun 2:46am Reply
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