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Siegfried Wagner with his wife Winifred

Siegfried Wagner (6 June 1869 – 4 August 1930) was a German composer and conductor, the son of Richard Wagner. He was a very productive opera composer and was the artistic director of the Bayreuth Festival from 1908 to 1930.



Siegfried was born in 1869 to Richard Wagner and his wife Cosima Wagner (née Liszt), at Tribschen on Lake Lucerne in Switzerland. Through his mother, he was a grandson of Franz Liszt, from whom he received some instruction in harmony.

Some youthful compositions date from about 1882. After he completed his secondary education in 1889 he studied with Wagner's pupil Engelbert Humperdinck, but was more strongly drawn to a career as an architect and studied architecture in Berlin and Karlsruhe.

In 1892 he undertook a trip to Asia with a friend, the English composer Clement Harris. During the voyage he decided to abandon architecture and commit himself to music. Reputedly, it was also Harris who first aroused his homoerotic impulses.[1]

While on board ship he sketched his first official work, the symphonic poem Sehnsucht, inspired by the poem of the same name by Friedrich Schiller. This piece was not completed until just before the concert in which Siegfried Wagner conducted it in London on 6 June 1895.[2] He became a very productive composer, composing more operas than his father. Though his works are numerous, none has entered the standard repertory.

Meanwhile he had made his conducting debut as an assistant conductor at Bayreuth in 1894; in 1896 he became associate conductor sharing responsibility for conducting the Ring Cycle with Felix Mottl and Hans Richter who had conducted its premiere twenty years earlier. In 1908 he took over as Artistic Director of the Bayreuth Festival in succession to his mother Cosima.

Siegfried Wagner was bisexual.[3] For years, his mother urged him to marry and provide the Wagner dynasty with heirs but Siegfried fought off all these increasingly desperate urgings.

Around 1913, pressure on Siegfied increased due to the Harden-Eulenburg Affair, in which the journalist Maximilian Harden accused several public figures, most notably Philipp, Prince of Eulenburg-Hertefeld, a friend of Kaiser Wilhelm II, of homosexuality. In this climate, Siegfried could no longer avoid marriage. The family found a suitable woman in a seventeen-year-old Englishwoman, Winifred Klindworth, and at the Bayreuth festival of 1914 she was introduced to the then-45-year-old Siegfried. The two married on 22 September 1915.[4]

The couple had four children:

  1. Wieland (1917–1966)
  2. Friedlinde (1918–1991)
  3. Wolfgang (born 1919)
  4. Verena (born 1920)

Though the marriage provided for the dynastic succession, the hope that it would also bring an end to Siegfried's homosexual encounters and the associated costly scandals was disappointed, as Siegfried remained sexually active with other men.[5]

Peter Pachl, one of Siegfried's biographers, asserted that in 1901 Siegfried had sired an illegitimate son, Walter Aign (1901–1977). However, that assertion remains controversial as he supplied no evidence. Nonetheless, several recent authors, such as Frederic Spotts or Brigitte Hamann, have taken up that assertion.[4][6]

Siegfried Wagner died in Bayreuth in 1930, having outlived his mother by only four months. Since his two sons were still only adolescents, he was succeeded at the helm of the festival by Winifred.




See List of operas by Siegfried Wagner

Orchestral works

  1. March for Gottfried der Spielmann (c. 1882)[2]
  2. Orchestration of Ekloge from Liszt's Années de Pèlerinage (1890)
  3. Sehnsucht, symphonic poem after Schiller (1892-5)
  4. Concertino for flute and small orchestra (1913)
  5. Violin Concerto (1915)
  6. Und wenn die Welt voll Teufel wär, scherzo for orchestra (1922)
  7. Glück, symphonic poem (1922–23) [dedicated to the memory of Clement Harris]
  8. Symphony in C major (1925, rev. 1927). (First version used the Prelude to Der Friedensengel as the slow movement, whereas a new movement was composed for the revised version. The scherzo is based on the sketches for an unfinished orchestral tone-poem, Hans im Glück[7])

Vocal music

  • 1890 Abend auf dem Meere, for soprano and piano - text: Henry Thode
  • 1890 Frühlingsglaube, for soprano and piano - text: Ludwig Uhland
  • 1890 Abend am Meer - text: Alfred Meissner
  • 1897 Schäfer und Schäferin
  • 1913 Das Märchen vom dicken fetten Pfannekuchen, for solo voice and orchestra, op. 13
  • 1918 Wahnfried-Idyll
  • 1919 Nacht am Narocz, for tenor and piano - text: Günther Holstein
  • 1922 Ein Hochzeitslied für unseren Erich und seine liebe "Dusi"
  • 1927 Dryadenlied
  • 1927 Weihnacht
  • Frühlingsblick - text: Nikolaus Lenau
  • Frühlingstod - text: Nikolaus Lenau


  1. ^ Jonathan Carr, 'The Wagner Clan', Faber and Faber, 2007, pp. 111-130.
  2. ^ a b Peter P. Pachl, booklet notes to Classic Produktion Osnabrück cpo 999 366-2.
  3. ^ Jonathan Keates, "Review of The Wagner Clan by Jonathan Carr", Daily Telegraph.
  4. ^ a b Brigitte Hamann. Winifred Wagner: A Life at the Heart of Hitler's Bayreuth. Harcourt, Orlando, Florida (2005).
  5. ^ Geoffrey Wheatcroft. "A Widow’s Might", New York Times, 11 Marc 2007.
  6. ^ "Review of Frederic Spotts. 'Bayreut: A history of the Wagner Festival'". Cambridge Opera Journal´, volume 7, no. 3 (November 1995), p. 277-284.
  7. ^ Peter P. Pachl, notes to Classic Produktion Osnabrück cpo 999 531-2

External links


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