TWILIGHT OF THE WAGNERS by Gottfried Wagner

TWILIGHT OF THE WAGNERS

The Unveiling of a Family's Legacy
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KIRKUS REVIEW

In his memoirs, prominent musicologist and stage director Wagner unveils the anti-Semitic sentiment that prevailed in his family ever since his illustrious great-grandfather, composer Richard Wagner, expressed his pathological Jew-hatred in his 1850 essay “Jews in Music.” Born shortly after WWII into an influential family who singlehandedly managed the Bayreuth Wagner Festival, Gottfired began investigating German-Jewish relations and his family’s Nazi past from an early age. This interest eventually made him an outcast among his relatives. Richard Wagner anticipated Hitler’s Final Solution when he called for the restoration of the German Aryan race, pure of degenerative Jewish blood. Drawing on family letters and photographs, Gottfried uncovers his grandmother’s close relationship with Hitler: Winifred was proud to have supplied an incarcerated Hitler with the paper on which he wrote Mein Kampf. Although she declined his marriage proposal, she remained the FÅhrer’s intimate friend and a dedicated Nazi Party member. As for Hitler, he found Wagner’s chauvinistic ideas inspiring and his music a perfect background for military parades. We read precious little about Richard Wagner and the origins of his ideological stance, as the book mainly details the author’s interaction with his family legacy. Gottfried takes us through a confrontation with his authoritative father, academic and family research, job searches, two marriages, and the adoption of a Romanian orphan. Gottfried’s accomplishments include a doctoral thesis on Jewish-German composer Kurt Weill, whose works were condemned in Nazi Germany, opera productions in Europe and Turkey, and worldwide lectures on the Wagners. In the 1980s, his career took an odd twist when he tried his hand in banking. Thanks in large part to Gottfried’s lecture tour in Israel, Richard Wagner’s once-taboo music was played for the first time on Israeli radio in 1990. A disturbing examination of the great composer’s legacy that sheds new light on a powerful clan and the persistence of Nazi ideology in postwar Germany.

Pub Date: May 26th, 1999
ISBN: 0-312-19957-0
Page count: 320pp
Publisher: Picador
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15th, 1999




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