Jacket Image

Enlarge Image

200 × 130 × 15 mm
224 pages
39 illustrations
01 Jul 2013
Critical Lives

Richard Wagner Ray Furness

With their complex textures, rich harmonies and elaborate use of leitmotifs, the operas of Richard Wagner remain some of the most influential – and contentious – in the history of the genre. But while Wagner won enormous renown for what he achieved on the stage, his life was marked by political exile, turbulent love affairs, and intermittent poverty. Because Wagner and his music are exceedingly intertwined with the great upheavals of his time, it is difficult to produce an impartial assessment of his work.

Published in the bicentennial of his birth, Raymond Furness’s Richard Wagner provides a clear and balanced view of both Wagner’s great successes and the controversies generated by his life and art.

Using Wagner’s wide-ranging engagement with Germanic mythology and folk traditions as a starting point, this book explores the composer’s music and prose writings, delving deeply into Wagner’s essential operas, such as The Ring and Tristan and Isolde, and offering new insights. Because the great operatic pieces often overshadow the rest of Wagner’s compositions, Furness also considers neglected fragments like Wieland the Smith, The Mines at Falun and The Visitors, producing a more rounded critical picture of the composer.

With up-to-date dissections of recent Bayreuth productions and a refreshingly uncluttered approach to a much-misunderstood life, this book is a rewarding investigation of a true titan of European music.

‘This lucidly written, balanced, and non-hysterical book rises to the top. It is an excellent guide to the understanding of Wagners continued relevance to the contemporary world.’ — Wagner Notes

‘Raymond Furnesss recent contribution to Reaktion BooksCritical Lives series stands apart from many of these bicentennial offerings. Coming in at only 224 pages, including notes, a generous number of illustrations, a brief bibliography and a short discography, this tidy little volume seeks to offer an account of the man and his works that is both succinct and insightful. This is a tall order, but Furness has largely acquitted himself well of the challenge, producing an immensely readable and informative biography based on a keen grasp of the scholarly literature . . . this is a wonderful introduction to Wagners world that will interest nonspecialist and specialist readers alike. For the former, Furness provides an accessible, engaging and coherent discussion of Wagners life, personality and creative activities.’ — German History

‘[Furnesss] compact book, with handsome black-and-white illustrations, offers a pithy overview of Wagners works and life and a recommended discography.’ — Operavore.com

Show all

Raymond Furness is former Chair of German at St Andrew’s University, Scotland. He is author or editor of many books on German literature and culture, including A Companion to Twentieth-century German Literature (1991), Zarathustra’s Children (2000) and On Heligoland (2008).

1. The Beginnings
2. Paris and Dresden
3. Revolution, Exile and Reform
4. Exploration and Consolidation
5. World Fame
6. Consummation
Select Bibliography
 Select Discography
AcknowledgementsPhoto Acknowledgements