By Jim Knipfel
I first became seriously hooked on Wagner when I was 12 or 13. Everything I’d been listening to up to that point—Beethoven, Tchaikovsky, Brahms—seemed to be little more than building blocks culminating in his final opera, Parsifal, and all the music that came afterward was a falling away. It wasn’t until a few years later that I began hearing about Wagner’s personal views and accidental associations, and you know what? It just didn’t matter. To this day nothing has changed. From all I’ve learned and read about him (including his massive autobiography), Wagner the Man was an insufferable blowhard and a jerk, someone I likely wouldn’t care to spend too much time around. But his monumental, glorious music remains central to me, and always will.
Today marks the 200th anniversary of Wagner’s birth, but you can’t hear anything about it without also hearing that Wagner was an anti-Semite and a friend of Nietzsche’s and a Nazi.
Yes well. OK, those three things seem to be far more important to most people than, say, The Ring Cycle, so let’s take care of these one by one.