My Life with Wagner

ebook / ISBN-13: 9780297608561

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‘Idiosyncratic, humorous, enlightening and written by one of the finest conductors alive … This is the book to buy if you are going to see Wagner or listen to him at home’ LITERARY REVIEW

Over a distinguished career conducting some of the world’s finest orchestras, Christian Thielemann has earned a reputation as the leading modern interpreter of Richard Wagner. MY LIFE WITH WAGNER chronicles his ardent personal and professional engagement with the composer whose work has shaped his thinking and feeling from early childhood.

Thielemann retraces his journey with Wagner – from Berlin to Bayreuth via Venice, Hamburg and Chicago. Next he takes each opera in turn, his appraisal illuminated by a deep affinity for the music, an intimate knowledge of the scores and the inside perspective of an outstanding practitioner. And yet for all the adulation Wagner’s art inspires in him, Thielemann does not shy away from unpalatable truths about the man himself, explaining why today he is venerated and reviled in equal measure. The result is a richly rewarding read for admirers of a composer who continues to fascinate long after his death.


[E]xceedingly valuable ... Thielemann is fascinating on the thought processes and working practices of a musician coming to terms with Wagner ... this is a book with flashes of great insight, in which connoisseurs of the unsaid will find a good deal to ponder.
Philip Hensher, SPECTATOR
[Thielemann's] book is an act of homage, part revealing autobiography ... and part informative guide to the Wagner oeuvre, describing the plots and performances of all the operas ... His enthusiasm breathes life into them.
My Life with Wagner is a professional's manual for approaching Wagner ... Thielemann's musical explorations ... are wonderful ... [His] writing also achieves something notoriously difficult, the evocation of music in prose ... In the end, My Life with Wagner has that peculiar, confidential value of a work written not by an academic, but by an artist submerged in the music.
A sensitive and revealing book, worth reading as a document of how Western art reflects on itself, its achievements and its anxieties[.] This is the book to buy if you are going to see Wagner or listen to him at home ... It's idiosyncratic, humorous, enlightening and written by one of the finest conductors alive[.] Every aspiring conductor should read this book ... Every aspiring singer should read it too[.]
Gulliver Ralston, LITERARY REVIEW
In one broad but illuminating sweep, Mr Thielemann surveys everything from Wagner's distinctive use of orchestration to the schemas of his operas: from the approach of different conductors to the Wagnerian Walhalla of Bayreuth ... Mr Thielemann's skill lies in conveying the power of music in words.
Teresa Levonian Cole, COUNTRY LIFE
The most rewarding and intimate section of the book concerns Thielemann's life as acolyte at Bayreuth - a place that Thielemann describes a 'temple, a workshop and a place of pilgrimage'.
Neil Fisher, THE TIMES
Thielemann is a passionate advocate for the music of Wagner, which has obsessed him since childhood. Where this book really works is in its focus on the minutiae of performance. It viscerally exposes the levels of perfectionism required in the virtuoso. Without alienating the lay reader ... it gets across the complexity of a Wagner score and the infinite interpretation possibilities out of which the conductor has to produce a narrative.
Lucasta Miller, INDEPENDENT
Thielemann's insights into Wagner's operas, together with his career narrative, including the personalities he has met along the way, deepen our fascination with his My Life with Wagner.