Was Wagner the most Philosophic of Composers?

Was he?

  • Yes.

  • No.

  • Not sure.


Results are only viewable after voting.

Larrey

Ad Honorem
Sep 2011
5,418
#2
I doubt it.

He certainly aspired to provide something more meaningful than that kind of bling musical extravaganza someone like Meyerbeer did.

And he certainly was pretentious. The actual ideas behind it all? The stuff that went into the "Gesamtkunstwerk" idea were interesting, and he did get the means to carry them out uncompromisingly. But then conceptually Meyerbeer sorta got there before him (and of course Wagner hated him, also for being Jewish) except without the Wagnerian ideas about "deeper" stuff, which in Wagner's case largely became a matter of how Jews couldn't be essential and authentic like Germans (main theme of "Die Meistersinger" fx). Musically Wagner's interesting, but there's a still a glitch between the pretentions of total originality and what other were doing at the same time (Verdi et al.).

Idea-wise he is to an extent saved by the actually very considerable Christian devotion than went into Wagner's opus. But for the rest – ouch! – rank antisemitism, nordicist Aryan suprematism, etc., etc.

IF he had been worth his salt philosophically speaking, maybe he would never had that break-up with Nietzsche? Nietzsche was slated to take up the job of editor for the Bayreuth-circle house-organ, the "Bayreuther Blätter". But Nietzsche radically soured over Wagner's crass and unrepentant antisemitism (specifically) and distanced himself. So instead they hired the sycophantic Hans von Wolzogen to do that job. (Wolzogen being one of the most pronounced Aryan suprematists, with his own weird theory of the pale and blond Aryans originating in the Pripyat marches.) Considering Wolzogen for ages was "die Bayreuther" and the official spokes-person of the effort, it's kind of and indictment of the intellectual content of the whole thing. (Also Wagners was the one who dredged up the washed-out Count Arthur de Gobineau in Italy and jump-started "Gobinism" as a weird German cult of the count and his "big idea" about "Aryans" being the creators of all civilization and culture – by tasking Ludwig Scheman with the job.)

Then again, the real lovers of Wagner's music will insist the music itself transcends all that baggage.
 
Jun 2019
27
Reiche des Oneiros
#3
I doubt it.

He certainly aspired to provide something more meaningful than that kind of bling musical extravaganza someone like Meyerbeer did.

And he certainly was pretentious. The actual ideas behind it all? The stuff that went into the "Gesamtkunstwerk" idea were interesting, and he did get the means to carry them out uncompromisingly. But then conceptually Meyerbeer sorta got there before him (and of course Wagner hated him, also for being Jewish) except without the Wagnerian ideas about "deeper" stuff, which in Wagner's case largely became a matter of how Jews couldn't be essential and authentic like Germans (main theme of "Die Meistersinger" fx). Musically Wagner's interesting, but there's a still a glitch between the pretentions of total originality and what other were doing at the same time (Verdi et al.).

Idea-wise he is to an extent saved by the actually very considerable Christian devotion than went into Wagner's opus. But for the rest – ouch! – rank antisemitism, nordicist Aryan suprematism, etc., etc.

IF he had been worth his salt philosophically speaking, maybe he would never had that break-up with Nietzsche? Nietzsche was slated to take up the job of editor for the Bayreuth-circle house-organ, the "Bayreuther Blätter". But Nietzsche radically soured over Wagner's crass and unrepentant antisemitism (specifically) and distanced himself. So instead they hired the sycophantic Hans von Wolzogen to do that job. (Wolzogen being one of the most pronounced Aryan suprematists, with his own weird theory of the pale and blond Aryans originating in the Pripyat marches.) Considering Wolzogen for ages was "die Bayreuther" and the official spokes-person of the effort, it's kind of and indictment of the intellectual content of the whole thing. (Also Wagners was the one who dredged up the washed-out Count Arthur de Gobineau in Italy and jump-started "Gobinism" as a weird German cult of the count and his "big idea" about "Aryans" being the creators of all civilization and culture – by tasking Ludwig Scheman with the job.)

Then again, the real lovers of Wagner's music will insist the music itself transcends all that baggage.
What is your actual argument against all that stuff, though? Maybe Wagner had a point.
 
Nov 2016
778
Germany
#6
The aspects which the other poster found difficult to swallow.
Well, I think what Larrey can't swallow is Wagner's brutal anti-Semitism, and of course he (Larrey) is right about it. When over 400 Jews had died in a fire at a Viennese theatre, Wagner commented: "All Jews should die in a performance of ´Nathan´". As Larrey already says, Wagner was very impressed by Gobineau's ultra-racist theses. Gobineau's doctrine of the superiority of the blonde Aryan race has deeply influenced Wagner's thinking.

Then again, the real lovers of Wagner's music will insist the music itself transcends all that baggage.
True.

What Larrey, who also mentions Nietzsche, strangely fails to address is Wagner's great admiration for Arthur Schopenhauer's philosophy, which influenced his thinking no less than Gobineau's racism. Schopenhauer's doctrine (induced by his reading of the Upanishads) of an existence intrinsically filled with suffering, which could only be escaped by denying the instinctive will to live, inspired Wagner to his typically Wagnerian motif of salvation, which is effective in ´Tristan and Isolde´, for example. In this sense Wagner was indeed a thoroughly philosophical composer. Thomas Mann wrote: "The acquaintance with the philosophy of Arthur Schopenhauer is the great event in Wagner's life". Wagner's publicly expressed admiration for Schopenhauer's teachings contributed much to the fact that they became increasingly known in the second half of the 19th century.

Conversely, Schopenhauer held very little interest in Wagner's music, preferring Mozart and Rossini by far. But he valued Wagner as a poet.

Another composer who was intensively involved with philosophy, but much more versatile than Wagner, was his rival Johannes Brahms, who from his youth systematically studied the entire spectrum of philosophy autodidactically, including Plato, Schopenhauer, Kant, Rousseau, Descartes, Locke etc.

Thus, under the influence of Schopenhauer's philosophy, Brahms said, for example, that music liberates from the "compulsion to want," and that the listener falls into a "painless state," which "Epicuros praised as the highest good and as the state of the gods: for that moment we have gotten rid of the disdainful urge of will, we celebrate the sabbath of the prison work of will".
 
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