Best known for the challenging four-opera cycle The Ring of the Nibelung, Richard Wagner (1813-83) was a conductor, librettist, theater director, and essayist, in addition to being the composer of some of the most enduring operatic works in history, such as The Flying Dutchman, Tannhauser, and Tristan and Isolde. Though his influence on the development of European music is indisputable, Wagner was also quite outspoken on the politics and culture of his time. To befit such a dynamic figure, acclaimed biographer Martin Geck offers here a Wagner biography unlike any other, one that strikes a unique balance between the technical musical aspects of Wagner's compositions and his overarching understanding of aesthetics. There are few, if any, scholars today who know more about Wagner and his legacy than Geck, who builds upon his extensive research and considerable knowledge as one of the editors of the Complete Works and the Complete Letters to offer a distinctive appraisal of the composer and his operas. Geck explores key ideas in Wagner's life and works, while always keeping the music in the foreground.
This year will mark the bicentennial of Wagner's birth, and there is no better testament to the composer's enduring influence than this fresh, vivid, and authoritative work. Richard Wagner: A Life in Music is a landmark study of one of music's most important figures, offering something new to opera enthusiasts, Wagnerians, and anti-Wagnerians alike.
Martin Geck is professor of musicology at the Technical University of Dortmund, Germany. His other books include Johann Sebastian Bach: Life and Work and Robert Schumann: The Life and Work of a Romantic Composer, the latter also published by the University of Chicago Press. Stewart Spencer is an independent scholar and the translator of more than three dozen books.