Wagnerism: Art and Politics in the Shadow of Music, by Alex Ross, 4th Estate, RRP£30, 784 pages

As composer, writer and polemicist, Richard Wagner has had a profound influence beyond his music. Alex Ross’s exhaustive survey takes in not only Hitler and the Nazis, but also generations of philosophers, feminists and gay artists, Star Wars and The Matrix.

Beethoven, A Life, by Jan Caeyers, translated by Brent Annable, California University Press, RRP$34.95, 680 pages

Marking the 250th anniversary of the composer’s birth, Jan Caeyers’ Beethoven, A Life is a biography for the modern age. Published in English for the first time, it downplays the Romantic image of the outcast titan to focus instead on social networks, artistic influences, friends and supporters.

Best Books of the Year 2020

All this week, FT writers and critics share their favourites. Some highlights are:

Monday: Business by Andrew Hill
Tuesday: Economics by Martin Wolf
Wednesday: Politics by Gideon Rachman
Thursday: History by Tony Barber
Friday: Critics’ choice
Saturday: Crime by Barry Forshaw

House of Music: Raising the Kanneh-Masons, by Kadiatu Kanneh-Mason, Oneworld, RRP£18.99, 320 pages

Kadiatu Kanneh-Mason’s story offers a ray of sunshine. Her account of the daily struggle to manage the musical educations of her family’s seven talented children reaches a triumphant conclusion when second son, cellist Sheku, achieves worldwide fame in 2018, playing at the wedding of the Duke and Duchess of Sussex.

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