Monday, October 08, 2007

The Käse of Wagner
by: Schvach Yid

That’s Richard Wagner, the 19th Century musical composer, principally of opera. Last night, WFMT, the Chicago-based public radio station, aired a re-broadcast of a concert given by the Jerusalem Symphony Orchestra, conducted by its current director, Leon Botstein, who also provided some explanatory comments. Chief among these were comments about Richard Wagner and Israel’s outright rejection of his music.

Decades ago Zubin Mehta, formerly the Director of the New York Philharmonic, and much more, served as the Director of the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra. In 1981 he programmed a Wagner piece to be performed in concert. Well, the response was plutonic – Israelis shouted and stormed out of the concert hall; Holocaust survivors were aghast. In response, and by way of apology, Mehta was offered the Directorship of the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra for life, which he accepted.

In 2006, Maestro Mehta admitted in an interview his error in performing Wagner in Israel.

Here’re two links to an article about Zubin Mehta and his long association with the Israel philharmonic scene: dyn/content/article/2006/12/01/AR2006120100298_pf.html

So what’s with Richard Wagner and the Jews? But first, Richard Wagner and this Jew.

My father is German (and hated Wagner); my maternal Oma (grandmother; Slovak born and raised in Vienna) loved Wagner’s music. Wagner’s compositions are basically good old Teutonic marching music. I hate to admit that the stuff courses through my veins (and I’ve never set foot in Germany), but it does.

There has to be a gene that determines this taste in music, at least in my case. I grew up hearing my father play nothing but ‘classical’ music on his ‘hi fi’, but never Wagner (both my parents grew up during the rise of the Third Reich, my father in Germany, my mother in Vienna). Yet no sooner had I gravitated to ‘classical’ music than I zeroed in on Wagner. It must be genetic – it couldn’t possibly be environment.

The fact is Richard Wagner is rejected by the Jewish community because he was a screaming Jew-hater. He made no bones about his disdain for Yiddin. So vehement were his vocal and literary outpourings of Jew-bashing that his close friend and confident, the philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche, felt the compulsion to terminate his association with the composer. Nietzsche wrote a ‘Turinese Letter’ titled The Case of Wagner – an essay in which Nietzsche labels Wagner as ‘one of my sicknesses’. Nietzsche was openly critical of Wagner’s vitriol against Jews. According to those in the know, Nietzsche was not a Jew-hater – he was purported to have written, according to one account, that all anti-Semites should be shot.

And the Nazis? All of us know about those people. Not only did they conquer and murder galore, but took and did as they pleased. This included absconding with any music and philosophy that suited their whim, including the works of Wagner, and Nietzsche, and Franz Joseph Haydn, and Gd-knows who else.

We Jews don’t hate Haydn or Nietzsche, but we do hate the rantings of Wagner. Music, however, is another story, regardless of how it may have been adopted for spurious purposes. After all, two of the world’s greatest exponents of Wagnerian opera are James Levine (the past Musical Director of the Metropolitan Opera Company in New York) and Daniel Barenboim. Both are Jewish (but let’s not discuss Barenboim's political views concerning Israel).

In 2001, when the then Director of the Bayreuth Festival, Giuseppe Sinopoli, literally dropped dead on stage of a heart attack while conducting a performance of Aida just months prior to the start of that up-coming summer’s Wagner Festspiel in Bayreuth, who was tapped to fill the gap? Daniel Barenboim, the Jew.

And here’s a link to a piece on The Controversy Over Wagner:


Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.