His music was also sanctioned by Adolf Hitler, who famously said, “Whoever wants to understand National Socialistic Germany must know Wagner.”
|Richard Wagner (1813-1883)|
Few composers have had more books written about them than Richard Wagner, and few have caused so much controversy. It’s been said that when eating dinner with friends you should never discuss politics, religion, or Wagner.
So, what are we to make of such an unpleasant man and his distorted political philosophies, a man who also created some of the most beautiful and redemptive music ever composed?
Maybe the answer is found by examining the relationship between Brahms and Tchaikovsky or Adams and Jefferson as described in a blog I posted two weeks ago. Sometimes we must simply separate a person’s character from their public work. The veracity of this idea is put to the test more often when examining the life and works of Richard Wagner than most any other person in music history.
As for my personal view on Wagner?
Tomorrow, May 22, is Wagner’s 200th birthday. I have no desire to commemorate the memory of the man. I will, however, spend time on the day after his birthday listening to the Overture to Tannhauser and Isolde’s Love-Death from Tristan and Isolde. There is no doubt I will enjoy the music, even if it was composed by an abhorrent human being.
Tannhauser Overture (Zubin Mehta conducting the New York Philharmonic)
Isolde's Love-Death from Tristan and Isolde (sung by Waltraud Meier under the direction of Daniel Baremboin on December 7, 2007 at the Scala Milan opening)
© 2011 James L. Smith
(originally posted on SonataForm.blogspot.com)