'Idiosyncratic, humorous, enlightening and written by one of the finest conductors alive ... This is the book to buy if you are going to see Wagner or listen to him at home' LITERARY REVIEW
Over a distinguished career conducting some of the world's finest orchestras, Christian Thielemann has earned a reputation as the leading modern interpreter of Richard Wagner. MY LIFE WITH WAGNER chronicles his ardent personal and professional engagement with the composer whose work has shaped his thinking and feeling from early childhood.
Thielemann retraces his journey with Wagner - from Berlin to Bayreuth via Venice, Hamburg and Chicago. Next he takes each opera in turn, his appraisal illuminated by a deep affinity for the music, an intimate knowledge of the scores and the inside perspective of an outstanding practitioner. And yet for all the adulation Wagner's art inspires in him, Thielemann does not shy away from unpalatable truths about the man himself, explaining why today he is venerated and reviled in equal measure. The result is a richly rewarding read for admirers of a composer who continues to fascinate long after his death.
In this sometimes enigmatic and always entertaining memoir, which is also part music history, Thielemann conducts readers through the musical rings of his life as well as introducing the stories, characters, and themes of Wagner's operas and the challenges associated with conducting them. Thielemann hears Tristan und Isolde and Parsifal for the first time when he's in his early teens. He is overwhelmed by the colors and atmosphere of Wagner's music and decides that he wants to "play an active part in this game," introducing Wagner to others. At Bayreuth, Thielemann learns two of the cardinal lessons of conducting Wagner: conductors profit most from rehearsals when something doesn't work, and they can add one little piece of mosaic to the next in practical performance. Drawing on his years of conducting, Thielemann characterizes the evocative beauty and power of each of Wagner's operas. The so-called Tristan chord, for example, "contains everything: tension, longing, desire, melancholy, pain and also relaxation, peace, and deep pleasure." In The Flying Dutchman, Thielemann observes, Wagner moves away from the tradition of German Romantic opera into new directions, even though Wagner wasn't clear where those moves would take him. In Lohengrin, Wagner pleases his audience with beauty and melody before employing novel musical techniques, foreshadowing his experimental later works. Thielemann masterfully orchestrates this colorful introduction to Wagner's music and its themes.