[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.
[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[.]
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.
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'.
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.
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.