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Breaking: Tel Aviv Wagner concert is cancelled again as hotel pulls down shutters

The ice-break Wagner concert that Tel Aviv University turned down after protests from Holocaust survivors has now been shut out by its substitute venue, the Tel Aviv Hilton Hotel. Tocket offices were offering refunds this morning, according to the German press agency dpa. No reason has been given for Hilton putting up the No Room at the Inn sign. Political pressure cannot be ruled out.

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  1. tgjolley says:

    the players in this story are begining to look really silly.

  2. Wanderer says:

    Does anyone have a list, which composers are illegal in Israel beyond Wagner?
    Orff? Strauss? Pfitzner? Mussorgsky?

  3. Alex Klein says:

    Norman, this attitude is puzzling in view of modern standards for tolerance in society. That Wagner’s music was used in concentration camps is repugnant. I am certain that the memory of it is still demoralizing to many survivors, but this happened nearly a century after the works were composed and cannot be blame on the composer. True, Wagner the man had anti-semitic opinions, which are at least reprimandable, but if we are going to go down this path we must remember that in the terms of Gustav Mahler’s marriage to Alma Schndler it was specified that she had to abandon all interest in composition. Are all women now going to openly refuse to listen to Mahler for his macho attitude? Beethoven’s Eroica Symphony praised Napoleon’s early conquests and predicted a violent fall for Vienna’s regime. Could Beethoven now be seen as a invasion sympathizer in his own land? If we are to mix “composer” with their “compositions” we will pretty soon find out that every one of them had some gripe in their lives, which could be reprehensible by one group or another. Israel’s difficulty with Wagner but tolerance to those who actively sought to stop the rise of women composers seems a contradiction, and it sends the wrong message to the world. Their gripe with Wagner’s music cannot rise above the great contributions of Israeli and Jewish artists towards peace, understanding and tolerance in the world.

    • Wanderer says:

      “That Wagner’s music was used in concentration camps…”

      Maybe it was, but do you have a reliable source for this claim?
      Which music exactly by Wagner?
      For what purpose?
      I have a hard time believing this.

    • Wanderer says:

      “That Wagner’s music was used in concentration camps…”

      Maybe it was, but do you have a reliable source for this claim?
      Which music exactly by Wagner?
      For what purpose?
      I have a hard time believing this, not that is was played among a lot of other (German) music, but that it was used specifically and Wagner could be singled out for it.

      • It is a well-documented fact that the nazis had orchestras or groups of musicians playing as jews were led to extermination camp gas chambers.

        However, the idea was that the music should have a calming effect and make the victims believe that they were going to be treated well. The rationale was that if hundreds of jews panicked – rumors of extermination camps were definitely circulating among at least some jewish communities, ghettos and holding camps by 1943 – and caused a riot, the “smooth running” of the gas chambers would have been upset, lowering “efficiency.”

        In Theresienstadt, the “model” concentration camp the orchestra often played for camp guards, but since jews were forbidden to play “aryan” music, they would hardly have performed Wagner.

        For this reason, I strongly doubt that Wagner’s music was used, though I do not know what was played.

        I’ve read quite a few books about the Holocaust, and I do not remember any of them stating that Wagner was piped through loudspeakers in KZ camps. In fact, I do not even recall that any of them mentioned that loudspeakers were installed in KZ camps. Orders were shouted out by Kapos and nazi guards.

        in extermination camps, nazi guards were not known for having sophisticated tastes except for some instances at the commanding level. It is entirely possible that some of them played Wagner at home, but a grammophone would be unlikely to have been heard by camp inmates.

  4. I agree, this does seem a bit tenuous.

  5. Stanley Slome says:

    Did Karajan have Jews in his orchestras? Did he ever conduct music by Jewish composers?

  6. James Inverne says:

    It wasn’t only Wagner in the camps, but Wagner was played – especially in Dachau – to (first) ‘re-educate’ the prisoners in the values of the Third Reich and (later) simply to demoralise them. Other music was also played, but Wagner has come to symbolise this, not least I imagine because of his personal views and of the anti-Semitic and the nationalistic overtones in his operas (which I nevertheless love, despite and trying my best to ignore those quailties). But it’s more than ‘demoralising’ for Holocaust survivors in Israel and indeed their descendants, it is deeply hurtful. I don’t believe it’s a question of music being forbidden in any top-down, authoritatrian way, it’s having consideration for the rubbing of salt into deep psychological wounds. I think Wagner will be played after the last Holocaust survivor has died, but having said that I have friends in Israel who are my age and they also feel very personally upset at the prospect of hearing Wagner.

    • Wanderer says:

      “It wasn’t only Wagner in the camps, but Wagner was played – especially in Dachau – to (first) ‘re-educate’ the prisoners in the values of the Third Reich and (later) simply to demoralise them.”

      James, do you have a reliable source for this? What music specifically by Wagner could they have played to “re-educate” prisoners? Which one for demoralizing them?
      I have read this thesis often, but if you think about it en detail, it sounds a bit strange. Would they have played Tristan to demoralize the prisoners? Ride of the Valkyries like in ‘Apocalypse Now’?
      Parsifal Prelude for “re-education”? Siegfried’s funeral March?
      Sorry but to me it just doesn’t make sense. Sure Wagner was played there as part of regular radio programming that was broadcast by force in the camps, but specific use for psychological warfare seems strange. Now of course the Nazis were just a strange bunch of people with strange ideas, but still.

      We know for sure they played a lot of silly military marching music and Nazi propaganda songs in the camps, but Wagner’s music seems a bit too complex and musically sophisticated to be used in psychological warfare.

  7. Alexander Radziewski says:

    This item seems to me like a Vendetta nobody knows now the factual reasons.
    Wagner’s music was performed in the area before 1948. Banning him from repertoire in Israel because of antisemitic statements can’t be the main reason and wouldn’t be honest when not banning the music by Chopin and the cars of the Ford company too.
    The music of Wagner was misused by the Nazis without permission by Wagner.
    After Stalingrad, the disappeared from German opera stages. Everybody who knows the story can understand why.
    The only nationalistic part I know from all operas by Wagner is the aria of Hans Sachs

    „Verachtet mir die Meister nicht, und ehrt mir ihre Kunst!“
    was deutsch und echt, wüßt Keiner mehr,
    lebt’s nicht in deutscher Meister Ehr.
    Drum sag ich Euch:
    ehrt Eure deutschen Meister!
    Dann bannt ihr gute Geister;
    und gebt ihr ihrem Wirken Gunst,
    zerging in Dunst
    das heil’ge röm’sche Reich,
    uns bliebe gleich
    die heil’ge deutsche Kunst!

    Comparing with it’s really soft nationalistic. :)
    Except all other operas by Wagner have mythological backgrounds without any politics and there are no jews characterized in Wagner’s operas.

    The music of Beethoven was much more used combined with political events during the Nazi-time.
    statistically conformed by the repertoire lost of the Berlin Philharmonic who took part in many of these political events.
    Hitler’s composer by heart was not Wagner but Léhar and Léhar got many personal advantages of this situation. He died in 1948!
    Does anybody knows if Lehar is on the boycott list of non-welcomed music in Israel or music by Hans Pftizner who dedicated one of his pieces to Hans Frank, the so-called ?

    Reading the comments even here when discussing about the ban of Wagner’s music in Israel, I recognize much more prejudices than knowledges based on facts.

    There must be other reasons for this ban than only the person and the music of Wagner.

    • Not sure I agree with you about Hitler preferring Lehar to Wagner. Read the book “Hitler’s Piano Player: The Rise and Fall of Ernst Hanfstaengl, Confidante of Hitler, Ally of FDR.” Ernst “Putzi” Sedgwick Hanfstaengel was an excellent pianist who was introduced to Hitler early in the 20s and played the piano for Hitler often until he fell out of favor in the 30s.

      The descriptions of what he played and how Hitler reacted are quite specific. That apart, the book is an excellent read.

    • Gurnemanz says:

      Hans Sach’s monologue of the Meistersinger finale is deemed controversial outside Germany mostly because of the common mistranslation of “falscher, wälscher Majestät” as “false, foreign rule”, which was done likely for the sake of simplicity rather then in malice. “Wälsch” does not translate as “foreign” but rather it is a word that was originally reserved for Gaeilic or Celtic peoples surrounding Germanic ones. In the period when “Die Meistersinger” occurs, 16th century, “wälsch” was a by-word for Roman Catholics or Latins as they were commonly referred to by European non-catholics. In the broad, general cultural terms it is a reference to French and/or Italian cultures and their influences in Germany.

      In no way would “wälsch” create any anti-Jewish associations and/or conotations among the German population, even the nazis did not make such a connection(as per David B. Dennis in Nicholas Vazsonyi’s monography about “Die Meistersinger”).

    • You are just plain wrong. Albrecht is nothing, if not the symbol of “The International Jew.” renouncing love (humanity) for gold. Any 19th C. European audience would have understood this. Even Bernard Shaw understood this and wrote extensively on the subject.

      • Get the name right, for heaven’s sake, if you want to be taken seriously.
        It’s not Albrecht, it’s ALBERICH.

      • Wanderer says:

        Marc Albrecht or Gerd Albrecht? Or which “Albrecht”, Mr. Authority on Wagner?

      • Michael Hurshell says:

        @Bill: G.B.Shaw did no such thing. In fact he interprets Alberich (please don’t misspell the name) as the victim.

      • Alexander Radziewski says:

        @ Bill, your content of interpretation is best commentet by Tom Lehrer: “When correctly viewed, everything is lewd”.
        The Nibelungen-Saga’s first announcement comes from the 5th century. long time before Christianity in northern Europe including Scandinavia.
        Everybody who tries to combine Alberich with the fictive antisemitic stereotype of the gold-over-humanity-loving Jew is forced to misuse the Saga. Wagner construction of this story has the same structure like “Lord of the Rings” or “Harry Potter” in present times and Wagner did a very good job in this.

  8. Alexander Radziewski says:

    Content of a sentence got lost: After Stalingrad, the Ring der Nibelungen disappeared from German opera stages. Everybody who knows the story can understand why.

  9. Alexander Radziewski says:

    Next lost sentence: Comparing with Rule Britannia, it’s really soft nationalistic.

  10. Alexander Radziewski says:

    Third lost sentence: Except “Das Liebesverbot” all other operas by Wagner have mythological backgrounds without any politics and there are no jews characterized in Wagner’s operas.

  11. Alexander Radziewski says:

    Fourth sentence: Does anybody knows if Lehar is on the boycott list of non-welcomed music in Israel or music by Hans Pftizner who dedicated one of his pieces to Hans Frank, the so-called “Judenschlächter von Krakau” ?

  12. Michael Hurshell says:

    While I have read that Wagner was used specifically at Dachau (evidently during the early stages of Nazi rule, during 1933-34) to keep prisoners from sleeping, that’s the only use I have heard of that seems to be documented. Therefore, unless a survivor had been in Dachau at that time, there would be no personal recollection of Wagner as a method of torture, humiliation etc. Of course that is horrible enough, but it does appear Wagner has become a symbol of all that was horrible, to many survivors; understandable, since the Nazis (mis)used his music for radio broadcasts (I mean propaganda), newsreels etc. I imagined that when the last survivor in Israel has passed on, the situation might be more relaxed – and that the many musicians in Israel who want to perform Wagner would get their wish; but now it seems the survivors’ children have the same problems with Wagner. I suppose in that case, the dilemma might persist indefinitely. – Of course I insist, as I have stated elsewhere, that there are no anti-Semitic caricatures in Wagner’s operas. That legend seems to persist among many. But it remains a mere claim, without any reasoned explanation.

    • Wanderer says:

      Indeed there is a lot of conjecture and (wrong) assumptions around this issue. The music, Germans, free or improsoned, were bombarded with daily, was Nazi songs a la “Horst-Wessel-Lied” and stupid marching music. The opening fanfare of the daily war report “Wehrmachtsbericht” was by Liszt, Les Preludes… The favorite music of the Nazis was more Lehar than Wagner. The presence of Wagner on German opera staged actually declined in the 1930s, as actual statistics show. In radio programs Wagner was played not often, simply because he was deemed “too complex” and he didn’t write much short music, suitable for radio use.

      Yet this morbid fascination and connotation with Wagner and the Nazis persist. I guess also because Wagner’s music instills some sense of greatness. In mass psychology this could better be associated with the uniqueness of the Holocaust than a simplistic operetta by Lehar. Also the Holocaust and the end of times was a mythological theme in Wagner’s own literal Holocaust of Walhalla at the end of Götterdämmerung, which of course was totally unrelated to the gruesome later reality in Germany.
      So there are psychological factors, why Wagner is a better projection surface for hatred of the Nazis than Lehar or other “lower” anti-semites and opportunists.

  13. Wagner was an easy target for a number of practical, non musical reasons too: he wrote an explicitly anti-Semitic book; his wife was very publicly anti-Semitic; his daughter-in law had a personal relationship with Hitler; and among very famous composers he was the most publicly anti-Semitic. Also, once people get the idea to suppress something, the continuation of the idea tends to take on a life of its own, and people who would not have thought of it one way or the other jump on the bandwagon.

    We would have a very long list of composers who would have to be not played if we were to suppress all the anti-Semitic composers out there. I think Wagner acts as a kind of surrogate for the entire group of anti-Semites because of the things I mentioned above-and the psychological factors you mentioned as well.

  14. Pieter-Jan Geeroms says:

    I can understand why it upsets the survivors, but to cancel it is just capitulating to anti-Semitism if you ask me…

    Not to say missing one of the most beautiful music ever invented, I hope that when all survivors of the Holocaust have perished it will be possible for Israelis to listen to this unearthly marvellous genius of a composer, if it weren’t for Ludwig van Beethoven, he’d be my nr. 1.

    Hope Lohengrin sounds over the people of Israel one day…

    • M. Golubinsky Mishkov says:

      The anti-Semitism is helping to propagate the work of anti-Semite. It’s brave to stand against it and say NO.

      Play Monteverdi. Play Couperin. Play Haydn. Play Mendelssohn. Play Saint-Saëns. Play Berlioz. Play Debussy. Play Copland. Play Tchaikovsky. Play Schubert. Play Vaughn-Williams. Play Granados. Play Shostakovich. Play Bernstein. Play Corigliano.

      Play anything but anti-Semites like Wagner, Pftizner, Orff, etc.

      • Michael Hurshell says:

        It’s hardly about “propagating” – Wagner already gets performed more than most of the composers Mr. Mishkov lists: and without Wagner’s music, there would be no Saint-Saëns, no Debussy, no Vaughan Williams, no Shostakovich, no Bernstein. Wagner changed the face of music, irrevocably. Equating him with Pfitzner and Orff is just silly.

  15. M. Golubinsky Mishkov says:

    Why do people keep harping on whether Wagner’s music was played by the National Socialists or not? The Nazis played the works of a number of composers, including Bach, Mozart, Beethoven, Brahms, Franz Schmidt, and many others.

    The issue is that Wagner WAS AN ANTI-SEMITE. Bach was not an anti-Semite and didn’t write an anti-Semitic article. Nor did Beethoven, or Brahms, etc. (Schmidt was an anti-Semite, I believe.)

    Whether individual people want to play his music and accommodate date the fact that he not only held these beliefs but openly avowed them in print is their business, but good for Israeli institutions not to give this man a platform.

    There are countless other musicians, many of them great. Why this constant hankering to give voice to an avowed hater of Jews?

    • “Play Monteverdi. Play Couperin. Play Haydn. Play Mendelssohn. Play Saint-Saëns. Play Berlioz. Play Debussy. Play Copland. Play Tchaikovsky. Play Schubert. Play Vaughn-Williams. Play Granados. Play Shostakovich. Play Bernstein. Play Corigliano”
      all of which underlines why it’s so futile to mix art with personal life/political views.
      Gesualdo,Delius and Mahler were shocking in their treatment of their women so let’s incorporate a ban on them as well.

    • Warren Cohen says:

      It is sometimes hard though, to determine if someone was an anti-Semite. You mentioned Bach, who some believe was an anti-Semite, based largely, I believe, on passages in the St. John Passion. There is the case of Stravinsky, who wrote to his German publisher in the 1930′s promising that he shared their anti-Semitism (although in a rather weaselly way). But Stravinsky was a notorious opportunist, and one could easily imagine him saying something like that simply to get his music played in Germany, without believing it at all. But who knows? There is the case of Liszt, who seemed to have been surrounded by ant-Semites in his life and had a girlfriend who attached his name to anti-Semitic writing, and yet there is no direct evidence of personal anti-Semitism on his part. As for Schmidt, even he is a complicated case, despite the hideous work he started but never finished for Hitler. Hans Keller, who knew him well, insisted that Schmidt was not an anti-Semite and there is much circumstantial evidence to support this claim. I really hope this post does not lead to a bunch of people parsing the evidence, but if it does, it would further prove the point-that trying to avoid anti-Semitic composers opens a huge can of worms and will inevitably lead to arbitrary and unfair decisions about who is acceptable and who is not.

      • Bach was in no way an anti-semite, as I pointed out in an earlier blog by Mr. Lebrecht about the Johannes Passion.

        The passages in the Johannes Passion that can be perceived as anti-semitic are strictly biblical passages taken from the Gospel of John. All the “commentary” poetic texts used for arias and chorales is not in the least anti-semitic. My sense is that the poetic texts actually ameliorate the effect of the anti-jewish biblical text.

        • Warren Cohen says:

          I agree with you that the poetic texts tend to ameliorate the anti-jewish biblical text. In fact, that helps my point-that once you go down the road of trying to completely avoid anti-semitic composers, you run into a lot of areas where misinterpretations and doubtful cases can get people in mired in worrying about things other than the music and would lead to the condemnation and suppression of music in an arbitrary and unfair way.

          That said, I would never condemn anyone for making a choice to personally avoid the music of Wagner, Chopin Mussorgsky, Balarkirev and Glinka because their overt anti-semitism bothered them. We all have different levels of tolerance and rationalizations for our personal inconsistencies.

          • Very true and well written.

            Furthermore, there is the issue of personal taste. Wagner was repulsive as a human being on many levels, but even if I detach the music from the man, I still can’t stand listening to his bombast, both musical and textual.

  16. Musiker says:

    Daniel Barenboim, in an interview published in this week’s Der Spiegel, says:

    “Ich habe den groessten Respekt vor den Ueberlebenden des Holocaust. Wir koennen uns doch ueberhaupt nicht vorstellen, was diese Menschen mitgemacht haben. Und doch gibt es selbst unter ihnen unterschiedliche Haltungen – die meines Freundes Imre Kertesz zum Bespiel, der selbst ein Holocaust-Ueberlebender ist. Wir kannten uns kaum zwei Wochen, da sagte er zu mir: Kannst du mir Karten fuer Bayreuth besorgen? Ich respektiere, dass es Ueberlebende gibt, die diese Musik nicht hoeren koennen – geschweige denn wollen. Aber ich sehe nicht ein, dass jemand in seinem Apartment in Haifa sitzt und darunter leidet, dass ein Orchester in Tel Aviv oder Jerusalem Wagner spielt.”

    (I have the greatest respect for the survivors of the Holocaust. We can’t even begin to imagine what they’ve been through. But even they have different viewpoints. My friend, Imre Kertesz, for example. We’d only known each other two weeks and he said to me: can you get me tickets to Bayreuth? I respect the fact that there are survivors who cannot — let alone want to — hear this music. But I cannot accept that someone sitting in his flat in Haifa suffers because an orchestra in Tel Aviv or Jerusalem is playing Wagner.”

    And on the Nazis’ affinity to Wagner:

    “Wagner kann nicht direkt fuer diese Verbindung verantwortlich gemacht werden. Aber Wagner war ein schrecklicher Antisemit, seine Schrift ‘Das Judentum in der Musik’ aus dem Jahr 1850 ist eines der schlimmsten antisemitischen Pamphlete aller Zeiten. Hitler hat sich Wagner zum Propheten genommen. Aber selbst das Schlimmste, was Wagner ueber die Juden geschrieben hat, hat Hitler natuerlich in einer Weise umgedeutet, fuer die Wagner nicht verantwortlich zu machen ist. Ich verstehe natuerlich, was manche Menschen an Nazi-Assoziationen haben, wenn sie etwas ‘Lohengrin’ hoeren.”

    (Wagner cannot be held directly responsible for this affinity [or this connection]. But Wagner was a terrible anti-Semite. His pamphlet ‘Jewishness in music’ [or 'Judaism in Music' as its first English translation was entitled] is one of the worst anti-Semitic pamphlets of all time. Hitler made Wagner his own prophet. But even Wagner’s worst writings about Jews were of course re-interpreted by Hitler in a way for which Wagner cannot be held responsible. Of course I understand it when people say ‘Lohengrin’ conjures up Nazi associations for them when they hear it.)

    My own translations.
    Full interview can be read at

  17. Musiker says:

    Here is also a piece in today’s Frankfurter Rundschau about Jonathan Livny, the person trying to stage the Wagner concert in Tel Aviv.,9548600,16405402.html

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