chapter  8
Love in Wagner’s Ring
ByRoger Scruton
Pages 27

One of Michael Tanner’s most significant contributions to British intellectual life has been his advocacy of the music of Richard Wagner. He has pursued this cause in articles, reviews and a luminous book; indeed, it would be only a slight exaggeration to say that he has devoted his life to it. When I went up to Cambridge to study natural sciences, I was, despite my love of music, suspicious of Wagner, and ignorant of his artistic achievement. I began to read philosophy, hoping to learn why art, literature and music were so much more meaningful to me than physics and chemistry had been. Only one philosophy lecturer showed any awareness that art, literature and music exist, and that was Michael Tanner. He told his students, with feeling and authority, why the late operas of Wagner overshadow virtually everything that has since been created. He persuaded many of us; and I was one of them. Since leaving Cambridge I have returned again and again to Wagner’s masterpieces, and especially to The Ring of the Nibelung, hoping to capture in words some small part of the meaning which lives in the music. This essay is one tentative attempt, and it is an attempt that I should never have made, but for Michael Tanner.