Robert Bailey


We note the death of Robert Bailey, scholar, teacher, lecturer and mentor to many.  His studies of Tristan sketches and his critical score of the Prelude and Liebestod are definitive, and his impact on his students enormous.  His teaching positions included Princeton, Yale, Eastman, NYU, Tulane, Berkeley and Juilliard.  His lecture a few years ago at the Wagner Society of New York on the Wagner Horn was sensational.  Missed though he will be, he will be even more fondly celebrated.


  • I’m very saddened to learn of Robert Bailey’s death.

    In 1967, I took his History of 19th Century Music course at Yale. As I remember, it was 90% Wagner, with a bit of Beethoven and Weber before, and Mahler, Bruckner and Strauss afterward. I so clearly remember his lanky frame at the head of the room in Stoeckel Hall, playing selections from this or that Wagner opera on LPs.

    I will always be grateful to him for opening up a world that remains so central to me, almost 50 years later. Rest in peace.

  • Bob, I was in the same class the same year (1967-68). Greetings! As a freshman I had to get “special permission” to attend this class — meaning, I had to have an interview with Dr. Bailey. We discussed the upcoming appearance of Joan Sutherland and he made his little joke, “But I bet she’s not going to sing the Forest Bird at Woolsey Hall!” Of course I smiled knowingly but had no clue at the time what he was alluding to. But yes, he opened up the vast vistas of Romantic music — Herlioz too, remember we had to read his memoirs? — in the first half, the second half was pretty much all Wagner. He dated the Romantic era to the death of Strauss in 1949. RIP to a great teacher.

  • Thanks for your comments. I believe that Anthony Thomassini (NYT Music critic) may have been in our class, as well, although I didn’t and don’t know him.

    I can’t remember anything specific that Professor Bailey taught ( just like I can’t remember anything specific that I learned in college in any course); it is the emotional impact of the experience that I took with me – a set of feelings, rather than bits of knowledge. But they are very dear feelings, indeed.

  • I only knew him as Uncle Robert. It’s great to learn about his loves and impact on students. Feel free to share other stories you have about him. I would love to read them. Thanks.

  • Ah, came across this by accident. I took Bob Bailey’s Wagner course when I was a freshman or sophomore at Yale. What a marvelous experience it was! I’m still amazed that I got through his “drop the needle” tests. RIP.

By PeterP

The Wagner Blog

The Wagner Blog is a forum for discussion of contemporary themes arising from the works of Richard Wagner. Discussions relating to Wagner’s musical, literary, theatrical, philosophical, political and theoretic work are all appropriate for this forum.

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