To succeed with a new biography of Wagner a writer must have access to unpublished sources, or a new vision of the composer’s work, or literary abilities that match those of such accomplished predecessors as Ernest Newman, or at the very least a striking interpretation of the composer’s character. In Richard Wagner, Last of the Titans, Joachim Köhler sets out to impress the reader in all four of those respects, and even if he is at times too insistent on his trouvailles and aperçus there is no doubt that his book is a serious and much pondered study with which every Wagner enthusiast will want to come to terms. While staying within permissible bounds of speculation (something that he did not do in his recent study of Nietzsche), Köhler leans as far as he reasonably can towards a particular pattern of denigration, one which undeniably has much to be said for it, over and above its popular appeal in an...


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