Discussion:
Robert Gutman
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p***@gmail.com
2016-05-21 00:11:45 UTC
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I am sad to report that Robert Gutman, author of Richard Wagner: The Man, His Mind and His Music, passed away earlier this week at the age of 90. I was lucky enough to be a close friend of Robert's for more than 40 years. I grew to disagree with the central premise of his book, namely that a proto-Nazism intertwines Wagner's works. I especially disagreed with his assessment of Parsifal as an exercise in anti-Semitism. On the other hand, the book does an outstanding job chronicling Wagner's life and times. He will be deeply missed. His obituary in the NY Times is here: http://www.nytimes.com/2016/05/19/books/robert-w-gutman-biographer-of-wagner-and-mozart-dies-at-90.html
REP
2016-05-21 03:12:18 UTC
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I'm just now reaching the age where I can look back and see how drastically the world has changed in my own lifetime. When I first started listening to Wagner over 15 years ago, Gutman was a leading scholar, his ideas were debated here and elsewhere, and I longed for the day when people finally stopped talking about Wagner as though he had perpetrated the Holocaust. That day seems to be approaching at long last, but not in the way I had envisioned. Instead of talking about Wagner in a reasonable manner, people aren't talking about him at all. Even musicology, which has much to contribute on the subject, has moved on to other (and less important) matters.

I have no affection for Gutman, but his death is a reminder to me of all that is wrong with the world. If people aren't misunderstanding something important, they are ignoring it.

REP
Mike Scott Rohan
2016-05-21 23:53:18 UTC
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Post by p***@gmail.com
I am sad to report that Robert Gutman, author of Richard Wagner: The Man, His Mind and His Music, passed away earlier this week at the age of 90.
De Mortuis; and I note you disagree with his main premise. But I'm afraid my objection is even wider than that. I find it hard to forgive Gutman for the damage his purported biography has done, not least because it was published by Penguin, which made it easily the most popular prime reference on the subject. It was, effectively, more about Gutman and his own difficulties and ambiguities over Wagner, than any remotely objective or searching reassessment. The blank-eyed, opaquely unempathic psychopath it depicted, ignoring all evidence to the contrary, felt to me more like an almost masochistic construct of guilt and conflict; but it fitted all too well with uninformed preconceptions, among the post-war intelligentia especially. Even after so many studies have established the exact contrary, the NYT obituary itself reflects this in stating baldly that Wagner's "virulently anti-Semitic writings, which would become a lodestar of Nazi ideology"; in actual fact they were scarcely read by Nazis, even their more intellectual ideologues, and are not significantly detectable influencess even upon Hitler. Nor can I agree with the NYT that it provides a real picture of the "larger intellectual context of his times"; Gutman was all too evidently not a general historian, and was too given to interpreting Wagner and his coevals as if they were products of the 20th century instead of the early 19th. I'm sorry to be posting this in reply to a close friend, but I have said it here often before, and believe it still needs saying. However fine his human qualities, what I can only call his self-indulgence has made life immensely more difficult for those who must defend their love of Wagner's works.

Mike
Richard Partridge
2016-05-22 21:07:48 UTC
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On 5/21/16 7:53 PM, Mike Scott Rohan, at
Post by Mike Scott Rohan
Post by p***@gmail.com
I am sad to report that Robert Gutman, author of Richard Wagner: The Man, His
Mind and His Music, passed away earlier this week at the age of 90.
De Mortuis; and I note you disagree with his main premise. But I'm afraid my
objection is even wider than that. I find it hard to forgive Gutman for the
damage his purported biography has done, not least because it was published by
Penguin, which made it easily the most popular prime reference on the subject.
It was, effectively, more about Gutman and his own difficulties and
ambiguities over Wagner, than any remotely objective or searching
reassessment. The blank-eyed, opaquely unempathic psychopath it depicted,
ignoring all evidence to the contrary, felt to me more like an almost
masochistic construct of guilt and conflict; but it fitted all too well with
uninformed preconceptions, among the post-war intelligentia especially. Even
after so many studies have established the exact contrary, the NYT obituary
itself reflects this in stating baldly that Wagner's "virulently anti-Semitic
writings, which would become a lodestar of Nazi ideology"; in actual fact they
were scarcely read by Nazis, even their more intellectual ideologues, and are
not significantly detectable influencess even upon Hitler. Nor can I agree
with the NYT that it provides a real picture of the "larger intellectual
context of his times"; Gutman was all too evidently not a general historian,
and was too given to interpreting Wagner and his coevals as if they were
products of the 20th century instead of the early 19th. I'm sorry to be
posting this in reply to a close friend, but I have said it here often before,
and believe it still needs saying. However fine his human qualities, what I
can only call his self-indulgence has made life immensely more difficult for
those who must defend their love of Wagner's works.
Mike
Well said.

Dick Partridge

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