The Sorcerer of Bayreuth

The Sorcerer of Bayreuth

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The power of Wagner's music to enchant, to cast a spell, to transport the listener to states of hedonistic delight, has often been remarked - sometimes appreciatively and sometimes not. Indeed, no other composer arouses such fiercely divergent responses as Richard Wagner.

For Baudelaire, Wagner's music induced a feeling of being engulfed, intoxicated. For Nietzsche, Wagner was like a disease: "Everything he touches falls sick." In The Sorcerer of Bayreuth, Barry Millington, a leading authority on Wagner, presents an engaging, accessibly written overview of the life and works one of the world's most influential and controversial composers.

This richly illustrated book considers a wide range of themes, including Wagner's original sources of inspiration; his compositional process; his relationship with his wife, Cosima, and with his mistress, Mathilde Wesendonck; his perplexing ideology; the anti-Semitism that is undeniably present in the operas; their proto-cinematic nature; and the turbulent legacy both of the Bayreuth Festival and of Wagnerism itself. Millington illuminates these issues in a series of chapters, each exploring a theme through text, illustrations, and documents in elegantly designed spreads, thus avoiding the conventional formats of illustrated biography and documentary study.

The results are often surprising. Drawing on the very latest biographical and musicological scholarship - much of it undertaken by the author himself - Millington reassesses received notions about both Wagner's life and his music, demolishing tired cliches and ill-informed opinion in favor of proper critical understanding. Marking the bicentenary of the birth of Richard Wagner, The Sorcerer of Bayreuth offers readers a fascinating reappraisal of this most provocative of composers and the incomparable music he made.