21 APRIL 1933, Page 26


A new Life of Wagner at this time of day requires sound justification, and there is nothing discoverable in Mr. Steig- man's book, The Unconquerable Tristan (Macmillan, 15s.) unless, perhaps, some remarks about Cosima at the end, to indicate that it was in any way necessary. With M. de Pourtales book for the ordinary reader, and with Mr. New- man's monument for the serious student, both based on the latest material, Mr. Steigman seems definitely superfluous. Also it is very badly done. Mr. Steigman insists on entering into Wagner's thoughts, which he does very patronizingly and "very inexpertly. His description of the joys of conducting an orchestra gives the measure of his insight into the musician's Soul (Wagner has just accepted his first post at Magdeburg) : " He had had a chance the winter before to wave a baton . . . . he knew what it was to let loose the heaven-defying demons in Robert le Diable, and the ghostly cavorting of the witches and spooks in Marschner'S Vampir. To be in a full- fledged conductor's position and drive into those full-throated, conquer-or-die finales was height enough for anyone's musical ambition." This sentence is a good indication of Mr. Steigman's style, method, understanding and profundity. Everything that Wagner does is treated in the same way. It is a dull book.