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The Wagner Clan


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The grandiose life of Richard Wagner-the pronouncements on art and the German soul, the petty groveling for money and favors, the intermittently atrocious politics and intermittently glorious music-was a tough act to follow. Carr (Mahler: A Biography) follows Wagner's descendants through three generations as they fight each other for control of the Bayreuth Festival and, at opportune times, embrace, reject or sweep under the rug their forebear's status as Nazism's spiritual godfather. (It's a bum rap, Carr concludes, after a nuanced analysis of Wagner's writings and music that finds his anti-Semitism vile but muddled and probably not eliminationist.) Much of the story belongs to outsiders who married into the family: Wagner's wife, Cosima, a "chillingly implacable" anti-Semite; his son-in-law Houston Chamberlain, a racist ideologue revered by the Nazis; and his daughter-in-law Winifred, who clasped Hitler-affectionately dubbed "Uncle Wolf" by her children-to the family's bosom. Carr's sprightly, fluent narrative places the family in its historical and intellectual context without reducing it to the symbolic effigy it has often become. Photos. (Jan.) Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information.

This is the perfect book for those wanting to know everything about German composer Richard Wagner's descendants and their influence on the continuation and popularity of his compositions. Starting off with a detailed family tree, biographer Carr (Mahler; Helmut Schmidt) describes the lives and legacies of all of Wagner's children and grandchildren up to the present day. Highlights include the complex relationship between Wagner's British-born daughter-in-law, Winifred, and Hitler, as well as the history of the Bayreuth Festival, which Wagner established in 1876 to showcase his work, and its various challenges and directions by each of Wagner's descendants. Including more than 30 photographs and illustrations, Carr writes like a mystery novelist, grabbing the reader's attention and keeping it focused on the drama. The Wagner legacy is as much a drama as that of the life of the composer himself. An excellent read for academic and large public libraries.-Bradford Lee Eden, Univ. of California Lib., Santa Barbara Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information.

"[An] engaging group biography . . . levelheaded and meticulous."
"One need not be a devotee of Wagner's music to appreciate Mr. Carr's riveting account." -- John M. and Priscilla S. Taylor

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