Richard Wagner and the Jews

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McFarland, Jan 27, 2015 - Social Science - 343 pages
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It is well known that Richard Wagner, the renowned and controversial 19th century composer, exhibited intense anti–Semitism. The evidence is everywhere in his writings as well as in conversations his second wife recorded in her diaries. In his infamous essay “Judaism in Music,” Wagner forever cemented his unpleasant reputation with his assertion that Jews were incapable of either creating or appreciating great art. Wagner’s close ties with many talented Jews, then, are surprising. Most writers have dismissed these connections as cynical manipulations and rank hypocrisy. Examination of the original sources, however, reveals something different: unmistakeable, undeniable empathy and friendship between Wagner and the Jews in his life. Indeed, the composer had warm relationships with numerous individual Jews. Two of them resided frequently over extended periods in his home. One of these, the rabbi’s son Hermann Levi, conducted Wagner’s final opera—Parsifal, based on Christian legend—at Wagner’s request; no one, Wagner declared, understood his work so well. Even in death his Jewish friends were by his side; two were among his twelve pallbearers. The contradictions between Wagner’s antipathy toward the amorphous entity “The Jews” and his genuine friendships with individual Jews are the subject of this book. Drawing on extensive sources in both German and English, including Wagner’s autobiography and diary and the diaries of his second wife, this comprehensive treatment of Wagner’s anti–Semitism is the first to place it in perspective with his life and work. Included in the text are portions of unpublished letters exchanged between Wagner and Hermann Levi. Altogether, the book reveals astonishing complexities in a man long known as much for his prejudice as for his epic contributions to opera.
 

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Contents

Zurich
9
The Break with Minna
61
Tristan und Isolde
67
Part III Munich
103
King Ludwig
105
Cosima
108
The First Tristan
117
Exile from Munich
125
The First Festival
194
Neumann
202
Levi and Neumann
211
The Young Hermann Levi
213
The BrahmsLevi Friendship
221
The Breach with Brahms
226
A Study in Malice
232
Declining Health Worsening Temperament
236

Lucerne
131
Triebschen
133
Die Meistersinger
142
Cosimas Diaries
146
The Second Publication
150
Das Rheingold Brouhaha
156
The Turn of Die Walküre
162
Wagner and the French
166
Death of Tausig
171
The First Festival
179
Rubinstein and Preparations for The Ring
181
The Scapegoats
189
The Strangest Synagogue
241
Distance from Porges Closeness to Rubinstein
246
Neumann and the Berlin Ring
256
Neumann and the Traveling Wagner Opera Company
262
Levi and Parsifal
269
Lichtenberg and the Knieses
275
Wagnerphobia
286
Glimpses of the Other Side
292
Judaism in Music
301
Chapter Notes
317
References
323
Copyright

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About the author (2015)

Retired attorney Milton E. Brener has written books and numerous articles on such topics as art, opera and Judaica, He lives in New York.

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