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STRUM UN DRAN

I have a friend, Matthew, who is a Wagnerian. For those of you who don't know what that exotic species is, "Wagnerian" denotes someone who listens to the operas of Richard Wagner and loves them to a degree bordering on the unreasonable. And he's continually amazed by the fact that I don't get off on Wagner to the degree that he does. He also hit me once when I referred to Wagner as a proto-Nazi. Granted we were both a bit drunk at the time, but even so, you may get a bit of an idea how much respect and love Matthew has for the various works of Richard W. Nonetheless, I stand by both of those statements. There's no point denying the proto-Nazi thing, since handsome Adolf said it himself: "whoever wants to understand National Socialist Germany must first understand Wagner." Michael Tanner tries to minimise Wagner's effect on the development of Nazi Germany by saying Hitler was the only one in the Nazi hierarchy who actually liked Wagner, and all the others had to be dragged to Wagner productions under protest, but even so I don't think he denies Wagner's influence outright. And even if anti-Semitic views were less unfashionable in the earlier part of this century than they are these days (certain quarters like the KKK notwithstanding) so that Hitler could really have picked them up from anywhere, he himself specifically referred to Wagner as his source. So let's stop quibbling on this point. I'm also going to stand by my other statement about Wagner not really doing it for me. I don't have problems with 19th century Romanticism. (of which Wagner became by common consent one of the greatest exemplars and proponents) per se, and I'd rather have that than the stiffly formal and correct classicism of the 18th century more often than not. But even so, I'm not blind to its shortcomings, and there are times when the Romantic fits and seizures become too much. Wagner, to me, represents Romantic excess. There was a great moment once in the TV se...

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