Death's Soundtrack

Exquisite annihilation in the music of Richard Wagner

Death's Soundtrack

Richard Wagner: A Life in Music

by Martin Geck (translated by Stewart Spencer)

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.

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Published in February 2014 no. 358
Robert Gibson

Robert Gibson

Robert Gibson has lectured in music at the Sydney Conservatorium of Music, the University of Regensburg, and St Catherine’s College, University of Oxford. He has written for Opera Australia, State Opera of South Australia, Victorian Opera, Opera Queensland, Friends of the Barcelona Opera House (Gran Teatre del Liceu), Hamburg Symphony Orchestra, Wigmore Hall, Aldeburgh Festival, Snape Proms, ABC Classics, Australian Book Review, Limelight magazine, and many other organisations and publications. A graduate of the University of Oxford (DPhil), he is currently Publications Editor at the Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra.

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