Richard Wagner: A Life in Music
University of Chicago Press (Footprint Books), $58.95 hb, 461 pp, 9780226924618
After four days in the theatre, and just as many resting up between instalments, Richard Wagner’s Der Ring des Nibelungen ends with a big tune. Like most of Wagner’s themes, this one has been given a name: the ‘Redemption through Love’ motif. The name was not the work of the composer but of one of his acolytes, Hans von Wolzogen, and in its original German it is ‘Liebeserlösung’ which, strictly speaking, is ‘Redemption of Love’ or ‘Love’s Redemption’. But ever since guides to Wagner’s music began appearing in English – which is to say, a long time ago – the motif has been incorrectly labelled ‘Redemption through Love’, and so it has stuck.