Aspects Of Wagner, Second Edition, Revised And Enlarged (Oxford Paperbacks) Paperback – 23 May 1996
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`Original and stimulating...the most lucid attempt I have yet read to explain the reasons for the continuing Wagner's music over friend and foe alike.' Music and Musicians
An original and stimulating exploration of Wagner's workSee all Product description
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He states how for Wagner music drama would be the reverse of traditional opera (where the drama is a framework to hang the music),it would present archetypal situations as experienced by the participants,music a means to this dramatic end.This art form would `emotionalize the intellect'.From Beethoven he learned to articulate the inmost drama of the psyche(especially the Choral Symphony).Although there was some naivety in theories citing the ancient Greeks,he thought Shakespeare created total worlds using poetic drama,beyond the Greeks.He criticizes the passivity and solipsism of Wagner,centring his operas on the psyche,not on the external world. Wotan is at the mercy of forces he is powerless to control.The charcters do not relate to each other,the different `characters' being aspects of a single personality.
His chapter about Jews,citing Marx,Freud and Einstein,amongst the greatest of the world's creative geniuses, produced theories about man and his environment so deep and original as to equal any that came before.They started a Jewish renaissance in music,science and philosophy parallel to 5th century Athens BC.This creativity didn't come until the 19th century due to Jews who have escaped their religious traditions,repudiating Judaism.For those who have abandoned religion the greatest enemy is anti-Semitism.But though Wagner was correct in his analysis of why there hadn't been great Jewish composers,he didn't prophecy why there would be great ones(Schoenberg,Mahler)in the future as their rootlessnes and alienation became more integrated into society.His anti-Semitism became repellent as in the Paris of his youth he was destitute,dependent upon famous Jewish composers when his genius was neglected, their works were meretricious entertainments.He also attacked Christianity,but without venom.
The worship of Wagner by great artists like Nietzsche,Baudelaire, and Mann,who was to describe him as a `magician' despite the uses to which his work had been put.He is treated as a `god',people are `converted' or `make a pilgrimage'to Bayreuth.There are also the deniers,who associate his music with Hitler and Nazism.This is because Magee says the works appeal to our unconscious,taboo subjects repressed by society.Archetypal psycho-sexual situations are being acted out,inexpressible feelings captured by the music.He had learned a lot about the will and libido from Schopenhauer.The specific emotion of the human heart(the voice)is set against the wild primal feelings of the instruments,enlarging the human heart.Experience of godlike awareness,unconscious pure emotion.Wagner uses the psychic import of myth and dreams.In discontent Wagner's art is in revolt against civilization,nature realizing its own colossal strength.Magee compares it to like being in love,unrestrained passion.Magee says it appeals to emotionally isolated or repressed people.He tackles the idea of the music as `evil' head on-the dark side of life, its effect on people's stability,its hostility to civilization,unbridled violence,destructive passions,fascism-he posits its ability to put people at one with inner selves and the external world.Therapeutic.The capacity for love is incompatible with the pursuit of power.Repetition and interior monologue taken from Wagner influencedliterature, Eliot,Joyce,the Symbolists,Verlaine,Laforgue,Zola,Proust,Mann,Shaw,Lawrence,Ford,Forster,Woolf.He equally influenced composers,Listz,Debussy,Dvorak,Mahler,Schoenberg, Shostakovich, Bartok,Berg,Delius,Elgar,Delius,Sibelius.
In performance conductors had to feel the tempo not measure it mathematically.In Bayreuth Wagner built his own opera house around the hidden orchestral pit.This helps us see the singers as characters rather than performers,the audience become participants rather than spectators.Magee says Wagner needs to be played with weight and inner clarity,not easy to do.The orchestra should not be too loud for words to be heard.Wagner is best if not translated for the musical modulation,where the consonants and vowel sounds are part of the expressive language,unifying words and music,but their can be a loss of understanding for people who have no German.Sound is important as sense.The best translations match vowel sounds/consonants(egPorter).He compares conductors and singers and their roles.He old-fashionedly talks about LPs and 78rpm but his enthusiasm is immense.
Lastly Schopenhauer's philosophy The World as Will and Idea came to him with the force of revelation,like a religious conversion matching his intuitive principles with reasoned conceptions.Whatever he expressed in his work he could not conceptualize or express in words.He created in each opera a separate world as did Shakespeare with his greatest plays,whose uniqueness is musical.Wagner took symphonic music out of the concert hall into the theatre and combined it with drama with musical genius the equal of anyone's composing some of the most beautiful music ever.One of the 3 greatest composers ever,he was also possessed of greatness as a dramatist of the human psyche. His works are not topical but timeless set in a mythical world.Music needs to be the focus of their staging,music was at the locus of the dramatic conflicts personified and experienced through the music,'acts of music made visible'.Staging needs to be the incarnation of the music and of its perpetually forward-flowing life.In the scores he gives detailed instructions about what the characters are doing.The best short primer ever.
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