In Conversation with Alex Ross

Wagnerism: Art and Politics in the Shadow of Music


 Join us for a LIVE conversation with Alex Ross—music critic for The New Yorker and critically acclaimed author of WagnerismThe Rest is Noise, and Listen to This.



About the Event: Alex will share insights from his newest book, Wagnerism, exploring the composer’s influence on the artistic, intellectual, and political life of both his time and ours. One of classical music’s most provocative composers, Wagner has never been performed by the Israel Philharmonic. Tune in to this live conversation as we explore Wagner the artist, his works and his polarizing legacy. We are accepting questions in advance and will address as many as possible at the end of the program. 


About the Book: For many, Wagner is the most widely influential figure in the history of music. Around 1900, the phenomenon known as Wagnerism saturated European and American culture. Such colossal creations as The Ring of the NibelungTristan und Isolde, and Parsifal were models of formal daring, mythmaking, erotic freedom, and mystical speculation. A mighty procession of artists, including Virginia Woolf, Thomas Mann, Paul Cézanne, Isadora Duncan, and Luis Buñuel, felt his impact. Anarchists, occultists, feminists, and gay-rights pioneers saw him as a kindred spirit. Then Adolf Hitler incorporated Wagner into the soundtrack of Nazi Germany, and the composer came to be defined by his ferocious antisemitism. For many, his name is now almost synonymous with artistic evil.

In Wagnerism, Alex Ross restores the magnificent confusion of what it means to be a Wagnerian. A pandemonium of geniuses, madmen, charlatans, and prophets do battle over Wagner’s many-sided legacy. As readers of his brilliant articles for The New Yorker have come to expect, Ross ranges thrillingly across artistic disciplines, from the architecture of Louis Sullivan to the novels of Philip K. Dick, from the Zionist writings of Theodor Herzl to the civil-rights essays of W.E.B. Du Bois, from O Pioneers! to Apocalypse Now.

In many ways, Wagnerism tells a tragic tale. An artist who might have rivaled Shakespeare in universal reach is undone by an ideology of hate. Still, his shadow lingers over twenty-first century culture, his mythic motifs coursing through superhero films and fantasy fiction. Neither apologia nor condemnation, Wagnerism is a work of passionate discovery, urging us toward a more honest idea of how art acts in the world. Order at Bookshop, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, or, best of all, your local bookstore.

About Alex: Alex Ross has been the music critic of The New Yorker since 1996. His first book, The Rest Is Noise: Listening to the Twentieth Century, published in 2007, won a National Book Critics Circle Award and the Guardian First Book Award, and was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize. An essay collection, Listen to This, appeared in 2010. His third book, Wagnerism: Art and Politics in the Shadow of Music, was published in 2020. Ross has received the George Peabody Medal, an Arts and Letters Award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, a Guggenheim Fellowship, and a MacArthur Fellowship.

Special thanks to our supporters who sponsored this program:

  • Steinway & Sons

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  • Date Sunday February 21, 2021
  • Location
  • Time 11:00am 12:00pm


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