Synopses & Reviews
"The grandiose life of Richard Wagner the pronouncements on art and the German soul, the petty groveling for money and favors, the intermittently atrocious politics and intermittently glorious music was a tough act to follow. Carr (Mahler: A Biography) follows Wagner's descendants through three generations as they fight each other for control of the Bayreuth Festival and, at opportune times, embrace, reject or sweep under the rug their forebear's status as Nazism's spiritual godfather. (It's a bum rap, Carr concludes, after a nuanced analysis of Wagner's writings and music that finds his anti-Semitism vile but muddled and probably not eliminationist.) Much of the story belongs to outsiders who married into the family: Wagner's wife, Cosima, a 'chillingly implacable' anti-Semite; his son-in-law Houston Chamberlain, a racist ideologue revered by the Nazis; and his daughter-in-law Winifred, who clasped Hitler affectionately dubbed 'Uncle Wolf' by her children to the family's bosom. Carr's sprightly, fluent narrative places the family in its historical and intellectual context without reducing it to the symbolic effigy it has often become. Photos." Publishers Weekly (Starred Review) (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
A family saga as riveting as any opera, and a matchless mirror of Germanys rise, fall, and resurrection. Richard Wagner was many thingscomposer, philosopher, philanderer, failed revolutionary, and virulent anti-Semiteand his descendants have carried on his complex legacy. Now, in The Wagner Clan , biographer Jonathan Carr retraces the path of the renowned composer and his descendants. Along the way, Carr offers glimpses of Franz Liszt (whose illegitimate daughter Cosima married Wagner); Friedrich Nietzsche; Arthur Schopenhauer; Alberto Toscanini; Joseph Goebbels; Hermann Göring; and the Wolf” himself, Adolf Hitler, a passionate fan of the Masters music and an adopted uncle to Wagners grandchildren. Wagners British-born daughter-in-law, Winifred, was a close friend of Hitlers and seemed momentarily positioned to marry him after the death of her husband. All through the war the Bayreuth Festival, begun by the Master himself, was supported by Hitler, who had to fill out the meager audience with fighting men and SS officers. After the war, the festival was dark for a decade until Wagners offspringwith characteristic ambition and cunningrevived it.