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Richard Wagner: The Last of the Titans (Englisch) Gebundene Ausgabe – 5. Oktober 2004

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"The book is undoubtedly a landmark in Wagner studies."-Barry Millington, The Evening Standard "Kohler ... will give us Wagner uncut."-Andrew Crumey, Scotland on Sunday


This major new biography of Richard Wagner is iconoclastic, astringent and bold. It explores the philosophical roots of Wagner's work, which the composer himself deliberately obfuscated. It re-evaluates Wagner's relationships with his mother, step-father and - most revealingly - his wife, Cosima, standing received opinion on its head. And he meets head on, and confirms, the controversy over Wagner's anti-semitism. At the same time, and notwithstanding, Kohler profoundly acknowledges Wagner's genius. His biography should become the standard account for a good many years. .


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Not as bad as I thought it would be, but.... 19. Mai 2006
Von Joseph Kimsey - Veröffentlicht auf
Format: Gebundene Ausgabe
Joachim Kohler has made a career out of writing intellectually dishonest, crass books on both Richard Wagner and Friedrich Nietzsche, and while I expected more of the same here, this weighty tome actually possesses some merit.

As far as reliable biography goes, Kohler's book is more responsible than Gutman's Richard Wagner: The Man, His Mind, and His Music (but, again, that's not saying all that much), and Kohler does present some interesting analysis regarding Wagner's phobias, dreams and obsessions. The problem that arises here, though, is one that plagues all such psycho-biographies; that is Kohler's conclusions are purely subjective & cannot be conclusively proven.

Some of the reviewers here have made the remark that this is more of a philosophy book than a biography, and this is entirely correct. If one has little desire to wade through the theorizing of Feuerbach, Schopenhauer, Schelling, Hegel and Kant, then that person would be much better served in reading either Watson's or Millington's bios on Wagner. But if you are interested in seeing the philosophical backbone of Wagner's work, Kohler's book can be stimulating. I think Kohler is correct in discerning Schelling's influence in Wagner's thought, as well as his emphasis on Hegel's ideas on Wagner. Kohler is incorrect, in my opinion, in stating that Schopenhauer's thought had virtually no impact on Wagner. While it's true that Wagner's most "Schopenhauerian" work, Tristan und Isolde, is just as much in debt to Feuerbach, Schopenhauer's negation of the individual consciousness and the primacy of the Will are indeed pervasive presences in the opera. Wagner's Meistersinger & Parsifal are even more patently Schopenhauerian.

Kohler's views on Der Ring are also interesting, but again, those views are entirely subjective, and one can easily argue against them.

Having discussed the book's merits, there are also some major flaws. Nietzsche & King Ludwig are both portrayed as hapless victims of Wagner's megalomania, and Liszt is portrayed as an artist whom Wagner shamelessly [...] and blatantly copied. There is no doubt that Nietzsche & Ludwig were both psychologically wounded by Wagner (the man was quite a pill, after all), but neither men were utter victims, and both profited from their association with Wagner, and said as much. In regards to Liszt, Wagner was definitely influenced by him, but by the time of Die Walkure, Wagner had far surpassed his mentor.

Kohler addresses Wagner's notorious anti-Semitism, and it must be said, Kohler's murky analysis of Wagner's worst vice is almost as murky as Wagner's anti-Semitism. There are much more responsible (and clearer) examinations of Wagner's ugly hatred in the books The Darker Side of Genius, The Tristan Chord, and Ring of Myths. I recommend reading these first, and then coming back to this book.

Finally, we have Cosima. I never liked her, and it's easy to agree with Kohler's assessment of her as a self-righteous, manipulative woman. But I think it's also fair to say that she adored her husband (a quick glance through her diaries will prove that), and Kohler is off the beam in stating that their relationship was based primarily on fear.

Anyway, if you have the time and patience, this is a worthy read, but if you aren't inclined to wade through 700 pages of subjective psycho-biography and philosophical meanderings, then I would stick with a more manageable volume. In any event, I'm off to listen to Act II of Tristan.
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A philosophy book, not a biography 11. Mai 2005
Von Stanley Hauer - Veröffentlicht auf
Format: Gebundene Ausgabe Verifizierter Kauf
Let's begin by saying that this is a very difficult book, dense in style and at times obscure in its arguments. Stewart Spencer deserves high praise for his lucid translation.

What this book most emphatically is NOT is a biography. Rather, it is a set of semi-philosophical musings on the themes of Wagner's music dramas. There is NO narrative, and readers ignorant of the track of Wagner's career will be lost. Koehler is hung-up on Wagner's relation with his step-father and his sisters. Moreover, in this account Cosima is an ogre fresh from the pages of the Brothers Grimm at their nastiest. Koehler's Wagner is glad to die at age 69 just to get away from her. This Wagner is also a Freudian's wet dream, with speculations that range from the interesting to the absurd.

It is NOT a good first--or even second--book on Wagner. For biography try Ronald Taylor; for philosophy read Bryan Magee's exceptionally fine "Wagner and Philosophy" (American title: "The Tristan Chord").

What this book IS is that it's much better than some of the crap Koehler has previously published. (For a book-length pathology of "post hoc ergo propter hoc" give his "Wagner's Hitler" a perusal. His logical fallacies will have you rolling with laughter out of your chair.) I am glad I read this book, difficult as it was. I learned a lot--or at least was exposed to some thought-provoking ideas.

In sum, I'd recommend this book only to die-hard Wagnerians fairly well steeped in the literature already.
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Could've been so much better than it is 26. Januar 2005
Von R. J. Stove - Veröffentlicht auf
Format: Gebundene Ausgabe
Joachim Koehler, at his best, writes well. So well, that it's a pity his book is marred by a NATIONAL ENQUIRER type of prurience, by wild unconvincing generalizations, and by an almost complete absence of interest in Wagner's actual music - which is, after all, the reason why Wagner matters today.

Having discussed the present volume's virtues and failings at 2,000-word length in the February 14, 2005 AMERICAN CONSERVATIVE, I shall simply say here: this should've been the one-volume Wagner biography that all Wagnerians were longing for, but it isn't. Best to stick with the Wagnerological surveys of Bryan Magee, Rudolph Sabor, Deryck Cooke, and (more recently) Milton Bremer for greater insight than Koehler offers. The really hard-core Wagnerian will also want, within handy reach, Ernest Newman's four-volume account.
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Some Interesting Insights into Wagner's Violent Racism 13. November 2009
Von jomojomo - Veröffentlicht auf
Format: Gebundene Ausgabe
There are some worthwhile parts in the book. His analysis of Schopenhauer's place in Wagner's philosophy and art is quite interesting. He also lays out some of Wagner's thoughts on Germany and Judaism. Here is a brief summary: The heroic race of Aryans had grown weak and the 'demons of egosim' crucified Christ and bent his message with the 'terrors of Jehovah'. They also took control of money and power. If the Aryans did not want to perish, and that's what those of the 'Mosaic faith' desired, then 'consequences would have to be drawn'. What were the consequences? Wagner describes it as his 'ultimate insight', 'Only when the demon who gathers around him these maniacs in the madness of their partisan struggle is no longer able to find a where or when to lurk among us will there then no longer be any Jews." And Wagner described this as his 'great solution' to the Jewish problem. This sent chills down my spine knowing how important Wagner was to Hitler. Did Hitler's final solution originate with Wagner's solution? We'll never know for sure, but it sure is creepy. Wagner goes on to exhort Germans to cast aside modesty and conscience when attacking their fellow humans (Jews) because they are 'demons'. Again, knowing how Hitler consciously disposed of his conscience and feelings of empathy when he gave the order for genocide, it made me wonder if Wagner's exhortations were partly to blame.

But there are parts of the book that were not very satisfying. When it comes to biographies I like very clear and logical conclusions. I don't want a fanciful near fiction account, nor do I want fantastical extrapolations. And about half of this book is just that. I want reasoned conclusions with footnotes and quotes. Here is an example: "But she was Wagner's blank sheet of paper. And soon this sheet contained familiar features, for Mathilde, formerly known as Agnes, resembled Wagner's lost lover Jessie in every way and hence was the archetype of the heroic sister. Like Rosalie and Jessie, Mathilde played Beethoven and may have sung his songs. Above all, she yearned for the brotherly genius who would fly to her side and free her. For art alone could make her loveless life endurable." Sure it's poetic, but its not very convincing.

Also his readings of the operas themselves are painful to read. It reminded me why I dislike critical theory so much. Here is an example from his 100 page explanation Der Ring, this part is about Siegfried: "Although the lovers [Brunhilde and Siegfried] have created the new God-man through their union, they do not understand what this means. Their self-awareness has experienced the self in the union of 'I' and 'you' but does not know the history that has led to this point. Yet they need to experience this history before they can reconcile it within themselves. And experience always means experience of the other--that is the splitting and tearing apart of the self. History that is experienced is the history of suffering. It was not his knowledge that made Jesus the Son of God but his passion." I have yet to read an analysis of the meaning of the ring that doesn't devolve into mumbo-jumbo.

Anyway, in between the fantastical leaps of logic and interminable operatic analysis is some interesting and well documented material. I just wish the signal to noise ratio was better.
1 von 5 Kunden fanden die folgende Rezension hilfreich
Richard Wagner: The Last of the Titans 21. Oktober 2009
Von LagunaBookWorm - Veröffentlicht auf
Format: Gebundene Ausgabe Verifizierter Kauf
I have read a couple of other biographies on Wagner and this on is by far the most complete and detailed account of his life and works. Be prepared to slug through some dense writing but its all worth the effort. If you are new to Wagner this book might be more than you can handle. However be warned that whatever you read in the other biographies won't be as accurate as Wagner and his wife Cosima did a amazing job of recasting the details of his life to suit their idealized image of his life and legacy.
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