The Horn

Contact Me

Receive Email Updates

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
Add to Bloglines Add to Add to digg Add to Facebook Add to Google Bookmarks Add to Newsvine Add to reddit Add to Stumble Upon Add to Shoutwire Add to Squidoo Add to Technorati Add to Yahoo My Web