Richard Wagner's concepts of history

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2007-08

Authors

Anbari, Alan Roy, 1969-

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Abstract

Richard Wagner's published writings present various topoi to which he returned repeatedly. Often he adopts a historiographic approach in his arguments, and this feature suggested the present study concerning the composer's concepts of history. Wagner's historiographic approach is reflected in his discussions of the Greek influence on music. The contents of his personal libraries, first in Dresden and then in Zurich/Bayreuth, are also considered as further resources for the composer's study of history. Along with these sources, his autobiography, letters, and the extensive diary of his wife Cosima provide further substance for the present discussion. The shifts in Wagner's theories under the influence of Arthur Schopenhauer are also examined as is the composer's eventual realization that much of what he was attempting to do in his own works had already been foreshadowed in the early Italian humanist experiments that led to the birth of opera. Examples from his works, particularly Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg, reveal his adoption of traits of various historical style periods in music history in his own compositions. Wagner's reverence for Palestrina and Bach are also highlighted.

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