COSIMA WAGNER'S DIARIES: Volume II, 1878-1883 by Cosima Wagner
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COSIMA WAGNER'S DIARIES: Volume II, 1878-1883

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KIRKUS REVIEW

As translator Skelton notes, this second and final volume from Cosima's diary of life with composer Richard ""has less to record in the way of external events than Volume I"" but is just as long (over 1000 pages). Much more dullness to wade through, then--daily reports on R.'s declining health, travel minutiae in Italy, verbatim conversations--in search of the fascinating details that shed light on R.'s music and personality. Still, such details abound here, just waiting to be dredged out by determined scholars and diligent devotees. Parsifal was completed during the first years in question: ""Around lunchtime R. plays me what he has composed of 'Amfortas' Lament' . . . the modulation on the words ""nach ich"" occupied him the whole morning""; ""R. told me recently that he owes the 'yes' in Parsifal and Kundry's dialogue (Act I) to the children's conversation here--that importantly eager 'yes'!"" There are some reflections of the triangular tensions with patron King Ludwig (R. tells the King that ""his soul belongs for all eternity to him""; jealous Cosima suffers, but with ""rapturous acceptance of my pain""). And, of course, there are Richard's opinions. On Beethoven: praise tempered with-- ""Beethoven would have composed much more if he had kept his mouth shut."" On Schumann: ""a mere village musician, devoid of soul."" On Brahms: ""clumsiness, bombast, and falsity."" On Weber, Bellini, Shakespeare, Victor Hugo (""a grandiose fool""), Bismarck (""a bad man""), ex-soulmate Nietzsche (whose work now ""thoroughly disgusts him""), current idol Schopenhauer, Goethe, women (""there is something artificial about a woman who writes""). Plus: plans for trips to America, flirtations with Eastern philosophy, speculation on R.'s paternity (R. dismisses the resemblance to stepfather Geyer as ""elective affinities""). And, of course, endlessly, Wagner on the Jews--who have ruined England (Disraeli), are mining Germany, can't appreciate his music, are ""just waiting for his death"" to complete their corruption of Europe: ""What place has my art in a world like this?"" But again, as in Volume I, perhaps the most provocative material here is R.'s dreams: hilarious, Freudian (many involving Cosima's pa Franz Liszt), irresistible temptation for psycho-biographers. Together with Volume I, then--a unique sourcebook on one wild creative soul, heroically edited and translated, and sure (despite its awesome longueurs) to take a central place in the busy world of Wagner studies.

Pub Date: Sept. 25th, 1980
Publisher: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich