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The Wagner Clan Paperback – 15 Jan 2009

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Product details

  • Paperback: 432 pages
  • Publisher: Faber & Faber; Main edition (15 Jan. 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0571207901
  • ISBN-13: 978-0571207909
  • Product Dimensions: 12.6 x 2.8 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 370,965 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


'Carr's book gives us as much about the Wagner clan as most of us are likely to want to know. For avid Wagnerians, it will be unputdownable.' -- Hugh Canning, Sunday Times

'It offers both a fascinating introduction to laymen and a wealth of new information to the most dedicated Wagnerians.' -- Tim Martin, The Independent on Sunday

'Jonathan Carr has charted in forensic detail the sections of family history that will never have made it into official festival literature... The conclusions are as grimly compelling as they are soberly delivered.' -- Neil Fisher, The Times

'The Wagner Clan ... deserves its place on the groaning shelf, beside the various histories of Bayreuth, and biographies of the Wagners.' -- A.N Wilson, TLS

'Those of us for whom (Wagner) is a great composer...will enjoy THE WAGNER CLAN'S deftly woven narrative and its wider perspectives of 20th century Germany.'
-- Jonathan Keates, The Sunday Telegraph --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

Book Description

In Jonathan Carr's The Wagner Clan, family drama and political controversy collide with musical legacy - The Wagner Clan in the first thorough and balanced history of Germany's most famous family.

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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By David Harris on 5 Oct. 2013
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This book was a complete joy. Wagner seems to be more defined by myth these days - not surprising really, given the complexity of the man and his far reaching impact on culture in general. I don't think it's possible to offer a 'concise' Wagner biography ( not that this is a biography of Wagner, per se) : his legacy and influence are just too unwieldy and overwhelming. That said, Jonathan Carr has done a tremendous myth-busting and insightful job here. There is an almost tangible sense of Wagner's contradictory personality and the effect he had on others. I think one thing that works brilliantly is Carr's writing style. It has a no-nonsense feel to it - often informed by a wry, ironic detachment; it is also clear that he isn't simply trying to show off or appear witty for the sake of it. The over-arching mood works very effectively in maintaining a sense of perspective. We're not left with just another dry academic tome; nor do we have the excesses of fawning hagiography. Instead it is perfectly nuanced with just the right balance between a genuine passion for the subject and a healthy awareness of the shortcomings - of both Wagner and the family, past and present. It is often said of some books 'you don't need to be a fan to enjoy it', and that is absolutely true of The Wagner Clan. The story of a great talent, his peculiarities, his warring family, and how the man still casts an enormous shadow of music and culture today is a truly fascinating one, and Carr recounts this in what is, effectively, a real page turner: you want to know how each new event is going to pan out.

Not only is this a very enjoyable read, it is also a book that will, I'm sure, whet the appetite of those unfamiliar with Wagner's music to investigate further. I'm pretty sure it will also rekindle the interest of those who have some experience of Wagner without ever having been fully engaged. As for the true Wagnerite, well, they are in for a real treat. Very highly recommended.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Chris M on 29 Aug. 2013
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This book gives a full and fascinating account of the family descended from the controversial Richard Wagner. It also explores his character and background and attempts to 'explain' the eccentric characters of this dynasty as family and against the background of historical events.

The characters are full and interesting and the author has tried to provide fair assessments; looking for evidence and not necessarily accepting popular opinion about them. He also tries to assess them against the background of their own times, rather than current mores.

Well written, and easy to read. Recommened for anyone interested in Wagner his festival, and his family's twentieth century association with Hitler.
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8 of 11 people found the following review helpful By William Podmore on 14 Oct. 2009
Format: Paperback
In this his last book, Jonathan Carr (1942-2008), the biographer of Helmut Schmidt and Gustav Mahler, has written a brilliant collective biography of the Wagner family. He tells the story of Richard Wagner's extraordinary music and of his family's fights over the ownership and control of the Bayreuth music festival.

Wagner backed the 1848 revolutions, but had failed to learn from the 1789 French Revolution which, as Carr points out, "gave a mighty boost to the cause of Jewish emancipation." Wagner's repellent anti-Semitism stains his fame.

Also, the Wagner family was closer to Hitler than any other German family was. They knew Hitler as `Uncle Wolf', so often did he visit their Bayreuth home. The family welcomed his patronage and never distanced themselves from his politics. Later, they showed no remorse and accepted no responsibility for Nazi crimes.

Carr concludes that Wagner was not `particularly to blame for the Holocaust', largely because there were so many other guilty parties. Nor was his music especially palatable to the Nazis, although they used his `Ride of the Valkyries' as sound track to newsreels of their air raids, as did Francis Ford Coppola to scenes of US helicopter attacks on Vietnam in `Apocalypse Now'.

Wagner's great opera cycle Der Ring des Nibelungen "shows how disaster strikes those spurred by greed and lust for power." Wagner's rebellious grand-daughter Friedelind later called Hitler `Alberich-Hitler', identifying him with the Ring's lethal Nibelung, whose hunger for power sparks the saga that ends in the apocalypse of Götterdämmerung.
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