Judaism in Music and Other Essays

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University of Nebraska Press, 1995 - History - 432 pages
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Musical genius, polemicist, explosive personality—that was the nineteenth-century German composer Richard Wagner, who paid as much attention to his reputation as to his genius. Often maddening, and sometimes called mad, Wagner wrote with the same intensity that characterized his music.   The letters and essays collected in Judaism in Music and Other Essays were published during the 1850s and 1860s, the period when he was chiefly occupied with the creation of The Ring of the Nibelung. Highlighting this collection is the notorious 1850 article “Judaism in Music,” which caused such a firestorm that nearly twenty years later Wagner published an unapologetic appendix. Other prose pieces include “On the Performing of Tannhauser,” written while he was in political exile; “On Musical Criticism,” an appeal for a more vital approach to art undivorced from life; and “Music of the Future.” This volume concludes with letters to friends about the intent and performance of his great operas; estimations of Liszt, Beethoven, Mozart, Gluck, Berlioz, and others; and suggestions for the reform of opera houses in Vienna, Paris, and Zurich.   The Bison Book edition includes the full text of volume 3 of William Ashton Ellis’s 1894 translation commissioned by the London Wagner Society.

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Contents

Authors Introduction
1
On the GoetheStiftung
9
A Theatre at Zurich
27
Copyright

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About the author (1995)

Richard Wagner, one of the most influential German composers, was born in Leipzig in 1813. His stepfather brought the world of the theater into Wagner's life, and it fascinated him. As a youth, he began studying musical composition and wrote a number of pieces. His professional music career began in 1833 with an appointment as chorusmaster of the Wurzburg Theater. This was followed by several positions producing operas---his own and those of other composers. After success with his opera Rienzi in 1842 and The Flying Dutchman in 1843, Wagner became director of the opera at Dresden. During his stay there, he wrote Tannhauser (1845) and Lohengrin (1846--48). Political troubles in Germany in 1848 forced Wagner to leave Dresden and flee to Switzerland, where he remained for several years. While in exile, Wagner wrote a series of essays about opera and also began work on The Ring of the Nibelung, a cycle of four musical dramas based on ancient Germanic folklore. Among the other notable operas Wagner wrote are Tristan und Isolde (1857--59), Die Meister__singer von Nurnberg (1862--67), and Parsifal (1882). In 1870, following a series of love affairs, Wagner married Cosima, Franz Liszt's daughter. Wagner wrote both music and libretto for all his operas. Calling these operas "music-dramas," he sought to achieve a complete union between music and drama. In so doing, he created a new operatic form and transferred the center of the operatic world from Italy to Germany. In 1876 Wagner opened the Festival Theater in Bayreuth, which was dedicated to the preservation of his operas. Wagner's operatic music is highly dramatic and builds to amazing climaxes. His work symbolizes the synthesis of all of the arts in opera---the dramatic content and the scenery as well as the music---and had a great influence on all operatic composers who came after him. Especially significant was Wagner's view of opera as drama, with all components working in harmony. Equally significant was his use of continuous music throughout the opera, with the orchestra maintaining continuity within the divisions of the drama. Wagner died on February 13, 1883, of a heart attack.

William Ashton Ellis is one of the most important translators of nineteenth-century musicology. In addition to his monumental translation of Wagner's prose works, he translated Wagner's correspondence with Franz Lizst, Mathilde Wesendonck, and Wagner's own family. Ellis died in 1919.

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