Sunday, October 23, 2011

Wagner Article in History Today Magazine

My article on Richard Wagner and the historical background to his composing of Tristan und Isolde has just appeared in the November issue of History Today, now available in shops like Borders and W.H. Smiths.  You can read the introduction of "Richard and Mathilde" online.

The magazine has also published this video of Leonard Bernstein conducting Tristran und Isolde to coincide with my article.


  1. I am right into Wagner, this year :) I look forward to reading the article, when it arrives in my letter box.

    But there is something I don't understand - Wagner seriously stuffed up his affairs with women! They were all very inapproriate and one wonders why he did it. Repeatedly - I've only recorded 4 women; no doubt there were plenty of others.

    At first (1834) Wagner was besotted with the actress Christine Wilhelmine Minna Planer. He followed her around central Europe and married her in 1836. A long and miserable marriage :(

    In 1852 he was besotted with the writer Mathilde Wesendonck, the wife of the merchant Otto Wesendonck. This was even nastier because Otto, a fan of Wagner's music, had done everything he could to help the composer.

    Emilie Heim was a beautiful, married singer who attracted Wagner’s warm attention, and Minna’s despair. Emilie’s husband was another conductor who had been important in Wagner’s career.

    In 1865 Wagner was besotted with the wife, Cosima, of the conductor of Tristan und Isolde which was opening at the National Theatre in Munich. Hans von Bülow had also been a very generous supporter of the composer. But this affair totally angered Munich to the extent that King Ludwig HAD to ask the composer to leave.

  2. Hi Hels,

    Not only that, but he once had a delightful lunch on the terrace at the Villa Wesendocnk in Zurich with an intimate group of friends, which included three of the women you have mentioned as well as Han von Bulow. In fact Hans and Cosima were on their honeymoon! I describe this in my article as a scene straight out of a Tom Stoppard play.

  3. Finally, the November copy of History Today arrived and I read the article. Well done! I didn't understand Antigone, incest, Wagner's dead sister and replacing a mother, but I loved the rest.

    I added your reference to an old post of mine about Wagner's home at Wahnfried Haus. Thanks for the link

  4. Glad you liked it Hels and thank you for making the reference.