|FABER & FABER|
the observer Sun 01 February 2009
Richard Wagner was an antisemite, sycophant, womaniser and genius whose "diabolical attraction" earned him the dubious honour of being Hitler's favourite composer. Long before Apocalypse Now, his Ride of the Valkyries was - as Jonathan Carr reveals in this nuanced, wise, swift and stylish biography of Germany' s most famous family - played over newsreels of successful Nazi bombing raids. Hitler was a persistent presence at Bayreuth, and among the jutting chins and noses in the family photographs included here, "Uncle Wolf" clearly cuts an adored figure. Carr - who died in June - argues with dismay that the extant Wagners, who still hold sway at Bayreuth, are yet fully to confront this and other unsavoury associations.
the guardian Sat 17 January 2009
Everything you ever wanted to know about the history of the Wagner family, from the 19th-century adventures of the flamboyant composer, through his descendants' involvement with the Nazis, to contemporary arguments over the Wagnerian legacy at Bayreuth. On the way we are provided with an account of German social history alongside detailed descriptions of the Wagner clan, a cast of characters who are positively operatic in their histrionics. Key among them is, of course, the short, ugly, velvet-caped figure of Richard Wagner himself, who was apparently so self-obsessed that he would let out a piercing scream whenever guests in his company engaged in chatter among themselves. Others include Richard's domineering wife Cosima, who prized pious suffering as a virtue; Winifred, the daughter-in-law who ran Bayreuth and nearly married Hitler; and Friedelind, who escaped to the US and turned against the Nazis. As Carr puts it, "like a killer whale, antisemitism rears up and sinks from view in the Wagner family saga, but it is rarely far away".