Richard Wagner is one of the most influential – and controversial – composers in the history of music. Over the course of his long career, he produced a stream of spellbinding works that challenged musical convention through their richness and experimentation, ultimately paving the way for modernism.
Moving at a fast pace, the book encompasses a refreshingly wide range of themes, from the composer’s sources of inspiration, his fetish for exotic silks, and his relationship with his wives and mistresses, to accusations of anti-Semitism, the operas’ proto-cinematic nature, and the turbulent legacy both of the Bayreuth Festival and of Wagnerism itself.
Making use of the very latest scholarship – much of it undertaken by the author himself as editor of The Wagner Journal – Barry Millington reassesses received notions about Wagner and his work, demolishing ill-informed opinion in favour of proper critical understanding. The result is a radical – and occasionally provocative – reappraisal of this most perplexing of composers. With its many intriguing images and quotations from contemporary documents, Richard Wagner: The Sorcerer of Bayreuth will grip anyone interested in music and in the wider cultural life of the 19th century and beyond.
'An excellent book … lavishly illustrated, with photographs and portraits of the leading participants in Wagner’s astounding life … this book should be on every budding Wagnerian’s shelves'
'Exemplary lucidity whether outlining an opera plot or musical structure, unravelling a complex philosophical argument or adjudicating a contentious socio-political issue'
'A balanced and beautifully illustrated compendium of life and works, written in Millington’s easy-to-read style'
Financial Times (Best Books of 2012)
'The Wagner book of the bicentenary … sumptuous … If you only read one book about Wagner, make it this one … Puts the great man into context and perspective, and this is a wonderfully readable book about a musical genius. Simply fantastic'