01. August 2011 · Comments Off · Categories: Read Online

I had written earlier about the Israel Chamber Orchestra playing Wagner. I was pleased to get feedback from others both here on my blog and on Google+. I appreciate that, as I do want to always be sensitive to others, and I want to always remain open to learning and understanding. (So many thanks to those who commented!)

Now I’ve found an interview with the conductor of the orchestra. Here’s a snippet:

Did you have any personal hesitation, doubts about whether to play Wagner with an Israeli orchestra?

I was satisfied with it from the beginning, but nonetheless I talked about the matter with family and friends. The most significant conversation was with my mother, whom I accompanied to Yad Vashem to clarify what had happened to her aunt. In 1942, my family was taken to a building in Vienna with many other Jews, this aunt among them, and after she was taken away, my mother never saw her again. At Yad Vashem, we found out the details: she was sent away on May 4, 1942, and killed five days later in a concentration camp near Minsk. During this visit, I talked to my mother about the concert. “Wonderful!” was her response, because in my family there is a great love of Wagner.

Nonetheless, Wagner is known for both his anti-Semitism and the use the Nazis made of him.

Must everyone who produces a masterpiece like “Guernica” or “St. Matthew’s Passion” necessarily be a good person? The answer is no. Even criminals took off their blood-stained uniforms and played the most divine music. It’s true that many composers, among them Richard Wagner, were racist and anti-Semitic, but it is possible to separate a composer’s personality from his work. Israel itself has done this. Carl Orff, who was a Nazi, is extremely popular in Israel for his “Carmina Burana,” and like him, Franz Lehar, whose operettas are not banned. And for a little irony, I am not sure that everyone calling for a ban on Wagner also boycotts Volkswagen cars or Siemens products, and Siemens, it must be remembered, had its own concentration camp.


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