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Wagner as Man and Artist (Cambridge Library Collection - Music) Paperback – 19 May 2014
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Ernest Newman (1868–1959) was undoubtedly the greatest Wagnerian critic of his age. In this 1914 work, which deserves its place in the history of Wagner studies, he attempts 'a complete and impartial psychological estimate' of a complex and frequently misinterpreted genius who could also behave like a petty tyrant.
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Ernest Newman of the London Times, the most influential music critic on either side of the Atlantic and the author of many widely read books, among them THE STORIES OF THE GREAT OPERAS AND THEIR COMPOSERS, has made an exhaustive study of the vast mass of original Wagnerian manterial and from it he has written this invaluable study of the man and the artist. It is a story of overwhelming ambition, a story lit with the love of devoted women to whose sympathy their hero was ever susceptible, a story of artistic triumphs, financial failure, and personal passion.
A knowledge of Mr. Newman's book will enable you to appreciate, as never before, what lay behind the enduring beauty of Wagner's superlative music -- music which in its passages of turbulent majesty as well as in those of uplifted flight of soul reflects the proud, indomitable spirit of the unbridled genius who composed it.
Wagner is of German origin and worked as a conductor writing in his spare time two operas which were not successful. His first success came with Riezi his third work. He began to estalish impressive credentials with The Flying Dutchman, Tanhauser and Loehengrin.
Wagner had a powerful intellect and was a theatrical innovator. He was the first one to darken the theatre to increase the mystery of the performance. He wrote a large number of essays and academic works which are now unreadable arguing for a new form of art which he described was music drama. Prior to Wagner Operas had been broken into arias, duets, and ensemble pieces. The feel of an Opera was a collection of different tunes. Wagner argued that a Music Drama should flow and he developed the use of musical signatures to represent characters and moods. He also increased he size of the Orchestra and its importance in communicating the message of the Drama.
Wagner as a person was reprehensible. He stole money refused to pay back loans and stole the wife of his greatest disciple. He was also vain, anti Semitic and personally unpleasant. Despite this he has always been seen as one of music's towering figures.
Newman is a disciple of Wagner and he has been seduced by the myth. His book is close to that of adoration rather than a dispassionate account of his life. Never the less it is an interesting work.
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