Just over a decade ago, Alex’s book The Rest Is Noise caused a sensation in its breathtakingly epic account of music’s power and impact through the 20th Century. It won an RPS Award and the subsequent concert series of the same name, based on the book, at Southbank Centre also won an RPS Award in 2014. In September 2020, Alex returns with his biggest book yet: Wagnerism. No mere biography, it sets out to chart the extraordinary influence that one musician – the composer Richard Wagner – can have on the world, on art, on politics, and on so many facets of life. It’s a unique narrative, as much for those wary of Wagner as those who cherish him, not remotely shying from his startling beliefs and veneration in Nazi Germany, as much as his spell over countless artists since from Virginia Woolf to James Joyce, to anarchists, occultists, feminists, religious and politic leaders, and of course Hollywood. Renowned for his own musical passions, Stephen talks to Alex about this cultural colossus, his complex legacy, and his extraordinary, enduring music.
It’s fitting that the RPS should host such a conversation, as Wagner himself played a part in its history, coming to London to conduct all the concerts the Society presented in 1855.
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