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A Closer Look at Richard Wagner’s Manuscripts

Wednesday 22 May 2013 at 17:22

Today marks the 200th anniversary of the birth of Richard Wagner, one of the most influential and controversial composers ever to have lived. With his concept of the Gesamtkunstwerk (“total work of art”) – by which he sought to synthesise the poetic, visual, musical and dramatic arts – he revolutionised opera and gave birth to such masterpieces as Tristan und Isolde and the epic four-opera cycle Der Ring des Nibelungen. If his music was sublime, his political views regarding “race” were far from it – in his writings he frequently expressed anti-semitic views (particularly in his racist tract Judaism in Music). The beauty of his music and the vileness of some of his political opinions (complicated by the fact that he was reported to have had life-long Jewish friends), make him a continuing source of intrigue and debate for scholars the world over. To mark the anniversary the British Library have made available online its collection of Wagner manuscripts, mostly from early on in his career. The manuscripts come from the huge music-related manuscript collection of the great Austrian writer and music obsessive Stefan Zweig (whose writings, incidentally, passed into the public domain this year). Zweig acquired the Wagner manuscripts [...]