Macmillan Childrens Publishing Group
The Tristan Chord

The Tristan Chord

Wagner and Philosophy

Bryan Magee



Trade Paperback

Richard Wagner's devotees have ranged from the subtlest minds (Proust) to the most brutal (Hitler). The enduring fascination with his works arises not only from his singular fusion of musical innovation and theatrical daring, but also from his largely overlooked engagement with the boldest investigations of modern philosophy. In this radically clarifying book, Bryan Magee traces Wagner's intellectual quests, from his youthful embrace of revolutionary socialism to the near-Buddhist resignation of his final years. Magee shows how abstract thought can permeate music and stimulate creations of great power and beauty. And he unflinchingly confronts the Wagner whose paranoia, egocentricity, and anti-Semitism are as repugnant as his achievements are glorious.

At once a biography of the composer, an overview of his times, and an exploration of the intellectual and technical aspects of music, Magee's lucid study offers the best explanation of W. H. Auden's judgment that Wagner, for all his notoriety, was "perhaps the greatest genius that ever lived."


Praise for The Tristan Chord

“Magee gives us an absorbing history of how Wagner's reading list and his protean musical genius combine, illuminating in the process why these masterpieces can so overwhelm us. A wonderful book.” —Russell Platt, Symphony Magazine

“A remarkable contribution to the extensive literature on Wagner, Magee's text is not only illuminating but also highly personal and enormously engaging...Those readers already passionate about Wagner's works will find new reasons to appreciate them, and those who have avoided his music will find the book a revelation.” —Library Journal (starred review)

“A sound and highly readable exploration of the composer's philosophical milieu...Magee's mellow, lucid interpretation of how intellectual influences informed and nourished Wagner's libretti is highly persuasive.” —Kirkus Reviews

“A carefully researched account of a fiery personality who transmuted daunting ideas into compelling art.” —Booklist

“A splendid no-holds-barred account...Magee is unrivalled.” —BBC Music Magazine

“Enlightening, exciting . . . The Tristan Chord is quite simply indispensable . . . and should take its place among any Wagnerian's short list of required reading.” —John Rockwell, The New York Times

Reviews from Goodreads

About the author

Bryan Magee

Bryan Magee has had a distinguished career as a university professor, music and theater critic, member of Parliament, and author. He is well known for two popular BBC television series on philosophy. Among his internationally acclaimed books are The Story of Philosophy, The Philosophy of Schopenhauer, and Aspects of Wagner.

Bryan Magee

From the Publisher


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