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The Wagner Clan

3.52  ·  Rating details ·  86 Ratings  ·  15 Reviews
For well over a century the Wagner clan has run the Bayreuth Festival and played host to many of the greatest and ghastliest figures in the arts and politics. Drawn from extensive interviews with members of the family, Jonathan Carr presents a portrait of the Wagners and their circle.
Published January 1st 2008 by Faber & Faber (first published January 1st 2007)
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Henry Sturcke
Jun 18, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Fascinatingly sordid story, gripping read.

I love music, but for years I couldn’t hear the music of Richard Wagner without seeing in my mind visions of Hitler brooding on the fate of the Jews. It’s only in the last few years that I’ve begun to delve into and enjoy the music, and now I wanted to learn more about “the master,” as Wagnerites invariably call him, as well as the dynasty he and his mistress, later wife Cosima (Liszt’s illegitimate daughter) engendered, the youngest offshoots of which s
Jul 12, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: music
Despite a very unpromising opening (the saga of the Wagner family "more than match[es] the most lurid episodes of Dallas or Dynasty"), this turned out to be an enjoyable and interesting book. But be warned that it's neither a musicological nor a "deep" historical study.

Carr's portraits of Wagner and Cosima are sketchy to the point of caricature, but perhaps that was unavoidable given the amount of history he has to cover, and his ample treatment of Siegfried Wagner and the later generations make
Feb 01, 2009 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a story of Richard Wagner, and of his (often crazy) family, and how they preserved and maintained his legacy - while also helping to run it into the dirt. It is the story of the Bayreuth festival, of anti-Semitism and Nazism, and of one illustrious and infamous family’s saga, which at times seems to be almost as involved as that of the master’s characters (though, not quite, since at least no one in the story managed to fall in love and impregnate their own sibling!). It is a hell of a s ...more
Oct 19, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: history
Carr's history of the Wagner family is a genuinely interesting and enjoyable read, but it does suffer from the sheer scope of its topic. As each successive generation married and had children, the Wagner legacy--as carried on by his family--both grows and dissipates.

The early chapters detailing Wagner and Cosima's years together have the benefit of focusing on the couple and key figures in their life. Carr deftly illustrates how Cosima turned the admiration surrounding Wagner into a living cult
Jun 07, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Interestingly written study of Richard Wagner, "The Master", his wife Cosima Liszt, their children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren. The author explores the personalities of this clan, the anti-semitism that existed in Richard and Cosima, and the Bayreuth Festival. He explores the relationship between their daughter-in-law, Winifred, and Hitler as well as the Nazis's involvement with Bayreuth. The book explores the leadership of Bayreuth through the post-war years and the various grand ch ...more
André van Dijk
Hoezeer de Wagnerdynastie de wereld blijft bezighouden, blijkt uit de regelmatige berichtgeving over de al dan niet omstreden opvolging van de leiding over de Bayreuther Festspiele. De jaarlijkse hoogmis van Richard Wagners megalomane operauitvoeringen kan niet zonder een familielid aan het roer. En niet zonder het geruzie daarover. Maar het zijn vooral de wederwaardigheden van de componist zelf die blijven zorgen voor telkens weer nieuwe boeken, zonder verrassende inzichten maar vaak met een ie ...more
Jill Hutchinson
An interesting and talented family, to say the least, the Wagner offspring were descended from "The Master" Richard Wagner and the equally brilliant Franz Liszt. The author does not spend much time on the life of the unpleasant and boorish Richard and barely mentions Liszt......he sets the stage for the lives of those descendants, some of whom carried on the work of their father/grandfather at his beloved Beyreuth and most of whom were intimates of Adolph Hitler.

This is not an easy read as the a
Sep 28, 2007 rated it really liked it
A thoroughly riveting and intelligent survey of those pesky Wagners who have run the Bayreuth festival since it was founded by The Master himself. Carr is balanced and unbiased, thoughtful and sober in his approach but he doesn't spare on anecdotal detail or on making his own judgements on the the family members over the years.

Much like A N Wilson's recent novel, he sees that Richard Wagner's association with Adolf Hitler was as much the result of those British ex-pats in Germany, Chamberlain a
Sandra D
Feb 11, 2008 rated it liked it
Recommended to Sandra D by: Christian Science Monitor book review
On the whole, this book would be a lot more interesting to a Wagner fan, or at least an opera lover. I can't claim to be either; I go for Baroque.

Of much more interest to me was what was going on in the background of the Wagner family's story, and often in the foreground as well: a history of Germany beginning with the Franco-Prussian War and the founding of a united Germany in 1871, through WWI, the Weimar Republic, the rise of Hitler's Third Reich and WWII, denazification, the Iron Curtain and
Jun 11, 2008 rated it liked it
Recommends it for: Wagnerites and anti-Wagnerites alike
Shelves: classical-music
Whatever one thinks of Richard Wagner--and this book will give you plenty of information to form an opinion of the man--one fascinating aspect of his legacy is that his descendants have retained control to the present day, in varying degrees, of the Bayreuth festival and opera house inaugurated by the composer himself. Considering Wagner died in 1883, this is no mean feat. Through intermarriage with spouses of different nationalities, family squabbles, Nazis and family friend (!) Adolph Hitler, ...more
May 08, 2009 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
With its well-drawn characters, dramatic retelling of family squabbles, and star-studded cast, I really wanted to be interested in this book. Unfortunately, it turned out that I just wanted to read a book about Richard Wagner and not his children or grandchildren. It was certainly interesting to consider, though, how complicit in the Nazi regime someone is if their mother is having an affair with Hitler (maybe).
Oct 02, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The author tells a parrallel story of the Wagner family and the history of modern Germany. Cosima was very anti-semitic, Winifried was in love with Hitler, Wieland worked for a company staffed by concentration camp prisoners, etc. The book tries to find a middle ground in recounting their story. Not be best of families, but by no means the worse either.
May 23, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition

An interesting survey of Germany's most (in)famous family and raises that most difficult question of how quite appalling people create such fabulous art not that I am necessarily any nearer an answer!
Apr 09, 2011 rated it it was ok
This is another in the long line of books I couldn't finish.
Obviously, deeply and thoroughly researched, I found it to have too much detail about too many things.
I stopped at about the halfway point.
John B.
Jul 14, 2016 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Useful but uninspired biography of Wagner.
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