Reviews for Wagner


Choice Reviews 1997 April
Tanner (dean of Corpus Christi College, Cambridge) lectures on philosophy and is the author of Neitzsche (1994). Here he provides a valuable study of the meaning and significance of Richard Wagner's music dramas. Focusing chapter-by-chapter on each work, from the early Der fliegende Hollander to the final Parsifal, he boldly attempts to see Wagner's ouevre as a coherent whole. This is not musical analysis--Tanner is a perceptive amateur who writes well about music--but rather analysis primarily of dramatic structure and content. Through careful reading of the texts, supplemented by glosses from the two philosophers closest to Wagner--Schopenhauer and Nietzsche--Tanner leads the reader to understand Wagner's lifelong preoccupations, the common threads and themes that underlie his production. He makes a strong case for taking Wagner's words seriously (even granting the longeurs and inconsistencies) and for stage interpretations based on more than a casual understanding of these words. Suitable both for the Wagnerite and as a text to accompany the libretti, scores, and aesthetic tracts in an upper-division undergraduate introduction to Wagner. Copyright 1999 American Library Association

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Kirkus Reviews 1996 August
~ Tanner, a Cambridge philosopher and opera critic for the Spectator, offers analyses of the plots of Wagner's operas, the intellectual themes projected by them, and an evaluation of the music that is (for most of us) their justification. Tanner's discussion of The Ring is superb and makes an otherwise very uneven book required reading. He often overstates (arguing, for instance, that Tristan is one of the two great religious works in Western music, along with the St. Matthew Passion), and he generally loads his analytical dice to minimize or even delete Wagner's faults. While almost all serious music lovers include Wagner on their shortlist of the ten greatest composers, Wagner is for Tanner far more serious business than merely music. For him the purpose of his art is to change our lives. That makes his life very important, and Tanner's selective treatment of it is regrettable. Except for a mention in the four-page chronology, Tanner doesn't note the twice published Jewry in Music, Wagner's ferocious demand for racial purity in German music. This omission explains the comparative shallowness of Tanner's discussion of Meistersinger, which is described as a study of human folly, whereas from the outset it was recognized as a specific and passionate statement of German nationalism, and a work happily and repeatedly embraced by the Nazis. So why did Barenboim conduct Meistersinger at Bayreuth this year, and Levine at the Met? Because the incandescence of Wagner's music transcends his personality. As Rilke (another dreadful man and magnificent artist) noted, in attempting to explain the emotions evoked by Parsifal, it drives us ``to give joyous consent to the dreadfulness of life in order to take possession of the unutterable abundance and power of our existence.'' There is no question that Tanner, by fair means as well as foul, celebrates Wagner's power to achieve that. Copyright 1999 Kirkus Reviews

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Library Journal Reviews 1996 September
British academic philosopher Tanner has written on music for the Times Literary Supplement and is author of Nietzsche, a volume in the "Past Masters" series from Oxford University Press (1994). Nietzsche wrote a lot about Wagner, joining a flow of opinions that became a river long ago. Tanner quotes him here, mainly in order to argue with him and many others who find fault with the complicated, controversial German music dramatist. Opening by harshly explicating some Wagner criticism as "inane," "outrageously unfair," and "priggish," Tanner then spiritedly discusses all the operas in chronological order, focusing upon effects he feels their characters, stories, and music are meant to have on thoughtful members of the audience. When these effects are contradictory, Tanner self-consciously argues with himself. A short bibliographic essay provides leads to still more views. A warm-hearted, occasionally hot-headed defense of Wagner; recommended for balance.?Bonnie Jo Dopp, Long Branch Community Lib., Silver Spring, Md. Copyright 1996 Cahners Business Information.

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