• Re: WSJ book review: Wagnerism by Alex Ross

    From gggg gggg@21:1/5 to All on Sat Dec 31 09:43:18 2022
    On Saturday, September 26, 2020 at 7:42:39 AM UTC-7, wrote:
    On Thursday, September 24, 2020 at 2:11:34 PM UTC-7, Oscar wrote:
    Review from New Criterion:

    << The “old sorcerer”
    by James F. Penrose

    A review of Wagnerism by Alex Ross

    As befits one of history’s great megalomaniacs, Richard Wagner worried deeply about his posthumous reputation. “He believes,” his wife Cosima lamented, “that after his death they will drop his works entirely and he will live on in human
    memory as a phantom.”

    In a sense, Wagner’s fears were understandable. The acceptance of his music, particularly in Paris, took many difficult years. Rienzi, Forbidden Love, and The Flying Dutchman, despite Giacomo Meyerbeer’s generous help, went nowhere, and the
    spectacular failure of Tannhäuser in 1861 infuriated him for the rest of his life. He never understood how much he impeded his progress by his outlandish behavior and matchless talent for irritating people. “His life,” wrote one biographer, “
    resembles a ship steering with incredible recklessness among every sort of shoal and rock.” Today, though, Wagner’s concerns seem almost laughably misplaced. Even by the late 1860s, he had secured the international reputation and stature that he
    never relinquished. Today, Tristan und Isolde, Parsifal, Tannhäuser, and the Ring operas still play to awed and overwhelmed audiences.

    Wagner’s writings anticipate and complement his music. As is generally known, Art and Revolution and Opera and Drama explain the synesthetic concept of the Gesamtkunst (“totality of art”) that he thought gave his operas their cumulative power.
    Believing that society could be reformed and saved through a quasi-religious approach to art, Wagner advocated for theatrical reforms that he believed would lead to a better and happier world. He shows himself as a political and musical revolutionary, a
    utopian even, formulating his artistic legacy, the “artwork of the future.” On a darker note, his “Judaism in Music” essay reveals him as a nasty anti-Semite, madly jealous of Felix Mendelssohn and furious with the likes of Meyerbeer and the
    critics that in his estimation did little to promote his music. While his rebarbative views on race made it easy for the Nazis to co-opt him, Alex Ross’s new book dryly notes that even with that huge negative, Wagner successfully “survived the
    ruination of Hitler’s love.”

    Ross’s Wagnerism: Art and Politics in the Shadow of Music describes Wagner’s influence on the other arts: literature (Willa Cather, George Eliot, Thomas Mann), poetry (Baudelaire, Mallarmé, T. S. Eliot), painting (Van Gogh, Cézanne, Klimt),
    sculpture (Arno Breker), and architecture (Louis Sullivan, Josef Hoffman). In many cases, however, “influence” is perhaps a misnomer. For non-musicians, Wagner tended to be all things to all men, and Ross shows how many artists and writers
    identifying as Wagnerites actually projected their different styles onto him—creating a god in man’s own image, as it were...

    If Wagner's art and ideas "...tended to be all things to all men...", is it because of this?:



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