New Wagner Related Books: May 2015

Written By The Wagnerian on Saturday, 16 May 2015 | 11:56:00 pm

Below is a list, and summary, of fours books either about or related to Wagner and his work that have been published this month or are about to be published.



My Life with Wagner
Christian Thielemann

(English translation)
13 Aug. 2015
320 pages
ISBN-10: 1780228376

Over a distinguished career conducting some of the world's finest orchestras, Christian Thielemann has earned a reputation as the leading modern interpreter of Richard Wagner. My Life with Wagner chronicles his ardent personal and professional engagement with the composer whose work has shaped his thinking and feeling from early childhood. Thielemann retraces his journey with Wagner - from Berlin to Bayreuth via Venice, Hamburg and Chicago. The book combines reminiscence and analysis with revealing insights drawn from Thielemann's near-forty years of experience as a Wagner conductor. Taking each opera in turn, his appraisal is illuminated by a deep affinity for the music, an intimate knowledge of the scores and the inside perspective of an outstanding practitioner. And yet for all the adulation Wagner's art inspires in him, Thielemann does not shy away from unpalatable truths about the man himself, explaining why today he is venerated and reviled in equal measure. My Life with Wagner is a richly rewarding read for admirers of a composer who continues to fascinate long after his death.






Wagner, Schumann, and the Lessons of Beethoven's Ninth

Christopher Alan Reynolds


Hardcover, 232 pages
ISBN: 9780520285569
April 2015

Excerpt: Click Here

In this original study, Christopher Alan Reynolds examines the influence of Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony on two major nineteenth-century composers, Richard Wagner and Robert Schumann. During 1845–46 the compositional styles of Schumann and Wagner changed in a common direction, toward a style that was more contrapuntal, more densely motivic, and engaged in processes of thematic transformation. Reynolds shows that the stylistic advances that both composers made in Dresden in 1845–46 stemmed from a deepened understanding of Beethoven’s techniques and strategies in the Ninth Symphony. The evidence provided by their compositions from this pivotal year and the surrounding years suggests that they discussed Beethoven’s Ninth with each other in the months leading up to the performance of this work, which Wagner conducted on Palm Sunday in 1846. Two primary aspects that appear to have interested them both are Beethoven’s use of counterpoint involving contrary motion and his gradual development of the “Ode to Joy” melody through the preceding movements. Combining a novel examination of the historical record with careful readings of the music, Reynolds adds further layers to this argument, speculating that Wagner and Schumann may not have come to these discoveries entirely independently of each other. The trail of influences that Reynolds explores extends back to the music of Bach and ahead to Tristan and Isolde, as well as to Brahms’s First Symphony.

Contents:

Preface
Acknowledgments

Introduction
1. Wagner’s Faustian Understanding of Beethoven’s Ninth
2. The Impact of the Ninth on The Flying Dutchman
3. Wagner, Thematic Dispersion, and Contrary Motion
4. Schumann, Thematic Dispersion, and Contrary Motion
5. Late Schumann, Wagner, and Bach
6. Brahms’s Triple Response to the Ninth
7. Wagner and Schumann

Appendix 1: Citations of Wagner’s Possible Allusions and Influences in The Flying Dutchman
Appendix 2: Contrary Motion Counterpoint in the First Movement of Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony
Appendix 3: Contrary Motion Counterpoint in The Flying Dutchman
Appendix 4: Contrary Motion Counterpoint in the Fourth Movement of Schumann’s Second Symphony
Appendix 5: Contrary Motion Counterpoint in the First Movement of Brahms’s First Symphony

Reviews:

"Once again Christopher Reynolds amazes us with his X-ray ears, this time forging what will surely be a permanent link between Schumann and Wagner, two composers often thought incompatible, not least by themselves. Uncovering their common responses to Beethoven’s Ninth and to the music of Bach, as well as Brahms’s response to the two of them (eager and grateful toward the one, covert and grudging toward the other), he reminds us that composers are alive to all sorts of stimuli but react most tellingly to one another’s music. Reading Reynolds is like borrowing his ears and hearing new resonances in music we thought we knew."—Richard Taruskin, author of The Oxford History of Western Music
"By illuminating the largely unexplored topic of his interactions with Schumann, this book establishes the terms of a fundamental reassessment of Wagner’s development in the 1840s and 50s. Of particular interest are the specific ways in which Wagner, Schumann, and other romantic composers followed the example of Beethoven’s monumental Ninth Symphony. The story of that work’s formative influence has been told many times, but never before with the degree of insight and musical detail that Christopher Reynolds presents here."—Stephen Hinton, Avalon Foundation Professor in the Humanities, Stanford University, and author of Weill's Musical Theater: Stages of Reform

"Music historians have long been aware of two separate stories: one, that Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony exerted tremendous fascination on virtually all later symphonists; the other, that Richard Wagner saw his music drama as the next logical step to be taken after the Ninth. What Christopher Reynolds does in this imaginative and persuasive study is to bring these two stories together and to demonstrate that they are in fact a single story, one that emerged during the fateful 1845–46 meetings between Wagner and Schumann in Dresden."—Karol Berger, author of A Theory of Artand Bach's Cycle, Mozart's Arrow: An Essay on the Origins of Musical Modernity




Opera Acts
Singers and Performance in the Late Nineteenth Century
Karen Henson
March 2015
Hardback
ISBN: 9781107004269


Opera Acts explores a wealth of new historical material about singers in the late nineteenth century and challenges the idea that this was a period of decline for the opera singer. In detailed case studies of four figures - the late Verdi baritone Victor Maurel; Bizet's first Carmen, Célestine Galli-Marié; Massenet's muse of the 1880s and '90s, Sibyl Sanderson; and the early Wagner star Jean de Reszke - Karen Henson argues that singers in the late nineteenth century continued to be important, but in ways that were not conventionally "vocal". Instead they enjoyed a freedom and creativity based on their ability to express text, act and communicate physically, and exploit the era's media. By these and other means, singers played a crucial role in the creation of opera up to the end of the nineteenth century.

Contents:

Introduction: on not singing and singing physiognomically
1. Verdi, Victor Maurel, and the operatic interpreter
2. Real mezzo: Célestine Galli-Marié as Carmen
3. Photographic diva: Massenet, Sibyl Sanderson, and the soprano as spectacle
4. Jean de Reszke, the 'problem' of the tenor, and early international Wagner performance
Supporting cast.

Reviews:

"Karen Henson lovingly summons the voices of four singers of the fin de siècle, chronicling the moment when the opera star was no longer defined by beautiful singing alone. Spiraling out from Paris to aesthetics and performance practice in both Verdi and Wagner, Henson uncovers the roots of our current obsession with dramatic intensity, cinematic realism, and photogenic celebrity on the operatic stage."
Mary Ann Smart, University of California, Berkeley

"Karen Henson upsets conventional wisdom to argue for the continuing influence of singers on operatic creation in the late nineteenth century. Weaving together journalism, photography, theater, and fashion, she shows that the physicality of performers as much as their voices shaped works by Verdi, Bizet, Massenet, and Wagner. This is a virtuosic account of opera’s rich cultural fabric - beautifully written, always engaging."
Steven Huebner, McGill University



Understanding the Leitmotif
From Wagner to Hollywood Film Music


Matthew Bribitzer-Stull
April 2015
Hardback
isbn: 9781107098398

Excerpt

The musical leitmotif, having reached a point of particular forcefulness in the music of Richard Wagner, has remained a popular compositional device up to the present day. In this book, Matthew Bribitzer-Stull explores the background and development of the leitmotif, from Wagner to the Hollywood adaptations of The Lord of The Rings and the Harry Potter series. Analyzing both concert music and film music, Bribitzer-Stull explains what the leitmotif is and establishes it as the union of two aspects: the thematic and the associative. He goes on to show that Wagner's Ring cycle provides a leitmotivic paradigm, a model from which we can learn to better understand the leitmotif across style periods. Arguing for a renewed interest in the artistic merit of the leitmotif, Bribitzer-Stull reveals how uniting meaning, memory, and emotion in music can lead to a richer listening experience and a better understanding of dramatic music's enduring appeal.

Explains the concept of the leitmotif, adopting a new developmental approach to understanding its form and function
Explores the themes and associations of modern-day film music and the widely enjoyed musical genres of nineteenth-century dramatic music, such as program symphonies, tone poems, opera, and lieder
Provides a cross-disciplinary perspective that will be of interest to scholars of music theory, musicology, film studies, cultural studies, and comparative literature


Table of Contents


1. Introduction: the leitmotif problem

Part I. Musical Themes:

2. Motive, phrase, melody, and theme

3. Thematic development, thematic identity: musical themes and the prototype model

Part II. Musical Association:

4. The phenomenon of musical association

5. Piece specifics, cultural generics, and associative layering

6. From 'Nibelheim' to Hollywood: the associativity of harmonic progression

Part III. Leitmotifs in Context:

7. The paradigm of Wagner's Ring

8. Leitmotif in Western art music outside the Ring

9. The modern-day leitmotif: associative themes in contemporary film music


Reviews:

 'In eloquent prose, Dr Bribitzer-Stull offers a fascinating interpretation of the structural and expressive roles of the leitmotif in Wagnerian opera and Hollywood film music. His attractive semiotic theory of associative meaning yields fundamental insights into how musical motives enhance meaning in intermedial contexts.' Robert S. Hatten, University of Texas, Austin

'Wagner, the leitmotif, and the cinema have floated near one another for a century now. Bribitizer-Stull has woven them together to fashion the first thoroughly convincing explanation of Wagnerian practice in relation to its heirs in the symphonic underscore of classical and contemporary film.' David P. Neumeyer, University of Texas, Austin