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Wagner Handbook

Wagner Handbook

Edited by Ulrich Müller and Peter Wapnewski

ISBN 9780674945302

Publication date: 10/01/1992

Rarely has anyone in the history of Western culture stirred up such deep, contrary, and enduring passions as Richard Wagner. A proposal to perform his work ignites controversy in Israel. Wagner’s The Ride of the Valkyries blares from helicopters slicing the air of Apocalypse Now. His name leads a list of Germany’s spiritual heroes against a flaming backdrop in Anselm Kiefer’s largest work. Idolized by Nietzsche, appropriated by Hitler, defended by writers from Mann to Adorno, emulated by countless composers, interpreted by artists and filmmakers, Wagner has left us a legacy as complicated as it is profound. To this day the sheer magnitude of his accomplishment retains its power to overwhelm.

This book is a measure of that magnitude, an unprecedented attempt to bring together in one volume what is known about the composer’s life, his work, and his influence. Unparalleled in its scope and depth, this remarkable compendium offers readers a unique opportunity to understand what this prodigious man has meant to the Western world. Described by Brahms as a man of “colossal industry and horrendous energy,” Wagner composed dozens of works, many of them towering masterpieces; he influenced a whole generation of conductors, took part in a revolution, counseled kings and diplomats, and organized the building of the Bayreuth festival theater. His writings on a wide variety of subjects fill sixteen substantial volumes and his thousands of personal letters document a wildly eventful private life.

The Wagner Handbook addresses all of these aspects of the composer’s life and achievement. Central chapters include an account of Wagner’s place in music history by Carl Dahlhaus; Werner Breig’s treatment of individual musical works; Peter Wapnewski’s discussion of Wagner’s operatic works as literature; Isolde Vetter’s chapter on Wagner in the history of psychology; surveys of performance question over the years by Jens Malte Fischer and Oswal Bauer. These and other topics—the individuals who most powerfully influenced the composer and those he influenced, his impact on music history, and the political exploitation of his ideas—are masterfully drawn.


  • This is an extensive collection of essays on German composer Richard Wagner’s career, cultural relationships, and psychology. The contributors, most of whom are considered among the world’s leading Wagner experts, also discuss such pertinent subjects as the political exploitation of Wagner’s work by the Nazis. The superb volume, originally published in German as Wagner Handbuch in 1986, is nearly exhaustive in scope. Each essay was rendered in English by a different translator, and esteemed translation editor Deathridge (music, King’s Coll.) is responsible for the compilation’s cohesiveness.

    —James E. Perone, Library Journal

Book Details

  • 720 pages
  • 6-3/8 x 9-1/4 inches
  • Harvard University Press
  • Adapted by John Deathridge