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Strange Reasons For Shunning A Composer's Music

  People are strange creatures . They do things for the most irrational reasons . Among them are hating or shunning the music of a particular composer because of the kind of person he or she was .  Some people are so blinded  by their disapproval of composer X or Y as a person that they hate the music or even shuin it altogether .

  The composer most hated and or shunned is without a doubt  Richard Wagner , most controversial composer
of all time .  A notorious Anti-Semite , womanizer , serial adulterer ,deadbeat and megalomaniac .  Yet he wrote some of the most  breathtakingly beautiful , powerful and inspired music ever written . 

   To make matters worse , he was idolized by Adolf Hitler .  But is this Wagner's fault ? And did he actually share the same insanely bigoted and murderous beliefs as Hitler ?  It turns out  he didn't .  Yes, he disliked Jews , and even wrote a notorious  lengthy essay called "Judaism In Music" , which  says some rather nasty things about Jews , mainly about their supposed inability to create great and original art and music . 

   But did Wagner advocate genocide against the Jews or any one else ?  He did not .  He had a low opinion of them , but  he was no Hitler .  And  as the old cliche goes , "some of his best friends were Jews ".
Wagner had many Jewish friends and associates ,including the  once famous German-Jewish conductor Hermann Levi , whom he chose to conduct the premiere of his last opera Parsifal at  the Bayreuth festival in 1882 , simply because he realized  Levi's great ability as a conductor . And the son of a
Rabbi , no less !

   Ever since the founding of Israel in 1948 , the music of Wagner has been unofficially banned  there .
The Israel opera has never  performed any of the Wagner operas , and  the Israel Philharmonic's rare attempts to perform Wagner orchestral excerpts have met with loud audience disapproval .

   This is I suppose understandable , as some Israelis have been holocaust survivors who were subject
to the *** constantly playing Wagner recordings at the concentration camps , and  hearing the music brings back horribly painful memories for them .  Yet some of the greatest Wagner conductors of the 20th century and the present day are or have been Jews , such as the late Sir Georg Solti ,  James Levine and Daniel Barenboim .

   The problem is that Hitler read  so many things into Wagner that simply are not  there .  There are no Jewish characters in his operas ,  no discussions of Jews and Judaism , and not a single Anti-Semitic statement  can be found in any of the librettos .  Some  critics and musicologists have read  Anti-Semitism into  the plots and characters , but  this has all been highly tendentious .

   And Wagner was hardly the only composer to have been guilty of Anti-Semitism .  Ironically , the two most popular composers in Israel , Chopin and Tchaikovsky , were both anti-Semites !
  Some people ,such as a friend of mine , shun certain composers for an even less valid reason , merely because they were homosexual .  The best known example of this is Tchaikovsky , and my friend
won't touch his music because he was gay .

   But this is true of many famous  composers, living and dead  , such as  Aaron Copland,
Leonard Bernstein , Benjamin Britten , Virgil Thomson , Michael Tippett , Ned Rorem ,Samuel Barber,
Francis Poulenc and Hans Werner henze , to name only a handful .  So what ?  Why can't people just 
listen to their music purely as music ?

   Composers are fallible creatures like the rest of us .  They have been guilty of  being nasty people,
mean-spirited ,  greedy ,  envious and jealous ,  prejudiced ,  adulterers , less than  admirable parents ,
and  other common human failings .  But it's their music that counts !




Posted: Nov 21 2011, 06:10 PM by the horn | with no comments
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