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Wagner and Philosophy

4.25  ·  Rating Details ·  157 Ratings  ·  17 Reviews
Wagner was one of the few major composers who studied philosophy seriously. Bryan Magee places the composer's artistic development in the context of the philosophy of his age, and gives us the first detailed and comprehensive study of the close links between Wagner and the philosophers - from the pre-Marxist socialists to Feuerbach and Schopenhauer. Magee explores the rela ...more
Published September 6th 2001 by Penguin
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Graham Binner
Mar 14, 2010 Graham Binner rated it it was amazing
Shelves: philosophy
This is a remarkable book. Bryan Magee is a philosophy professor who has a gift for explaining philosophy to the lay reader. He is also immensely knowledgeable of music, opera, drama, and in particular the works of Richard Wagner.

Magee explains the life and works of Wagner in terms of Wagner's political, philosophical and artistic beliefs, and provides an introduction to the key German philosophers who would play a role in Wagner's life: Feuerbach, Kant, Nietzsche and above all Schopenhauer. As
Mar 25, 2013 Salvatore rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
An absolutely fascinating, well-written, entertaining, and informative look at Richard Wagner and his relationship to philosophy and philosophers. Bryan Magee, who had a BBC television programme back in the 70s all about explaining great thinkers'/philosophers' work - you should catch it on YouTube!, handles his sources with care, looking at Wagner's deep resonances with Feuerbach and, more importantly, Schopenhauer, and his effects on Nietzsche and the current discussions of anti-semitism. He g ...more
Mar 11, 2016 Rod rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
"The first chord of Tristan, known simply as 'the Tristan chord', remains the most famous single chord in the history of music. It contains within itself not one but two dissonances, thus creating within the listener a double desire, agonizing in its intensity, for resolution. The chord to which it then moves resolves one of these dissonances but not the other, thus providing resolution-yet-not-resolution. And so the music proceeds: in every chord-shift something is resolved but not everything; ...more
Feb 24, 2009 James rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: philosophy, opera
Recently reread this as background for the novel The Schopenhauer Cure. Magee begins with a sketch of Wagner's ideological trajectory: "He is a classic example of someone who, when young, is a passionately committed and active left-wing revolutionary, but then becomes disillusioned with politics and turns away from it altogether in middle age." There is, according to Magee, a corresponding transition in Wagner's philosophical affiliations, namely he starts in the tradition of Feuerbach and ends ...more
Oct 15, 2009 Stefan rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The Tristan Chord was the first piece of music that actually gave me chills the first time I heard it. It still has the power to stop me in my tracks. No matter what I may be doing when I hear it, I am stunned into the 'romantic crisis' that Wagner penned. Those four little notes, just few seconds of air time, changed the world of music. The boldness of Wagner's music is mirrored in his philosophical pursuits. This book is an excellent study of the the development and influences of Wagner as com ...more
Dec 16, 2012 Peter rated it it was amazing
Shelves: richard-wagner
Bryan Magee does a wonderful job, making the link between several philosophers (mostly Schopenhauer) and the ideas and music of Richard Wagner.

Even for readers who have no background in philosophy, but who want to get to know more about the ideas behind Wagner's masterpieces, this book is highly recommended.

The ideas are stated clearly without referring to philosophical jargon. Moreover Bryan Magee is an excellent writer with a gift for making difficult ideas accessible to everyone.

His admirati
Jan 09, 2008 Kristina rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: anybody who likes to think too much
Recommended to Kristina by: Rachel Traughber
I know, I'm still reading it and I already gave it 5 stars... but it's so fascinating!!! Some of this stuff I knew already, some of it is completely new to me.

So far the only thing I don't like about it is his obvious idealization of Wager, which I feel influences his speculations a little too much sometimes (hello literary bias), but whatev. It's a small price to pay for a thoroughly interesting book
Sep 17, 2011 Dfordoom rated it it was amazing
Shelves: non-fiction
This really is excellent, both on the revolutionary anarchist beliefs of the young Wagner and the Schopenhauerian beliefs of his later years. Magee is also fascinating on the subject of Wagner’s relationship with Nietzsche. A wonderful book, but indirectly I think it will end up costing me a great deal of money, since I now realise that I simply have to acquire Tristan und Isolde on DVD. And eventually I will also have to buy Parsifal.
Heather Denigan
Aug 28, 2011 Heather Denigan rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Magee's defense of Wagner got to be a bit sickening by the last chapter. The most major problem with the book is that it feels like an academic treatment of Wagner's musical philosophy but the tone doesn't stay academic. Magee inserts himself into the flow of thought a great deal. He could have made a better case if he had left his feelings out of it.
Aug 02, 2008 Carol rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Am re-reading this one because I just listened to the Barenboim recording of TRISTAN & ISOLDE in anticipation of his conducting it at the MET this fall. Really good (though politically somewhat unreliable) intro to Wagner and the philosophers who influenced him.
Jana L.
Jan 16, 2016 Jana L. rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: music
Wagner AND philosophy!? Yeah. Pretty much one of the most awesome books ever. One of the best chapters explore the impulse towards oblivion in Tristan und Isolde. It absolutely transformed my experience of the opera as a whole, as well as the music and words on their own merit.
Phillip Tigue
May 01, 2013 Phillip Tigue rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
From the Young Hegelian to a mentor to Nietzsche, Magee weaves an excellent description of not only Wagner's changes in philosophy, but 19th Century philosophy in general.
John Doe
Jul 01, 2008 John Doe rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition

Daren told me about this NPR podcast about Wagner.

I really want to see the Ring Cycle, now. It sounds incredible.
Sep 23, 2007 David rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
An excellent book about the intellectual influences on Wagner. Concludes with a fantastic discussion of Wagner and anti-Semitism.
James rated it it was amazing
Apr 28, 2016
Kelly rated it it was amazing
Mar 09, 2012
Rickard Olsson
Rickard Olsson rated it really liked it
Dec 30, 2011
Stanley Szelagowski
Engaging and intellectual.Breathes and lives.Encompassing and succinct.
'Jeoffrey Layco
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Sep 13, 2016
Jason Bowden
Jason Bowden rated it it was amazing
Feb 24, 2016
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Jan 04, 2011
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Jan 01, 2014
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Oct 21, 2016
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Dec 11, 2016
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Jorma Rusanen rated it it was amazing
Dec 06, 2014
Mike Golub
Mike Golub rated it it was amazing
Oct 22, 2015
Michael Kent-Davies
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Bryan Edgar Magee is a noted British broadcasting personality, politician, poet, and author, best known as a popularizer of philosophy.

Magee's most important influence on society remains his efforts to make philosophy accessible to the layman. Transcripts of his television series "Men of Ideas" are available in published form in the book Talking Philosophy. This book provides a readable and wide-r
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