‘Wagner and Beethoven: Richard Wagner’s Reception of Beethoven’ by Klaus Kropfinger

Published by Cambridge University Press in 1991.

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This book analyzes the lifelong impact of Beethoven’s music on Wagner and its importance for his conception of music drama. Kropfinger charts and scrutinizes Wagner’s early responses to the composer and considers his experience as a conductor of Beethoven’s music. A discussion of the Romantic “Beethoven image” leads to a careful study of Wagner’s aesthetic writings, including his “programmatic explanations,” the text “Concerning Franz Liszt’s symphonic poems,” and his Beethoven centenary essay. The penultimate chapter addresses Wagner’s theory and practice of music drama, which he came to regard as the preordained successor to the Beethoven symphony. By analyzing special terms—such as “Leitmotiv”—Wagner’s structural view of musical drama comes to the fore; it is a view that deepens not only our understanding of musical drama as a “hybrid” genre of art but also of purely musical structure and forms that Wagner sought to outdo.

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