an blog | AJBlog Central | Contact me | Advertise | Follow me:

Richard Wagner is on the buses

Leipzig, his birthplace, has announced its bicentenary plans.


The slogan is ‘Richard is a Leipziger’ – lucky he wasn’t born in Hamburg- and the big question is what to do if your opera house can’t afford to stage a Ring. The solution is 150 events of various shapes and forms, half of them concentrated in the latter half of May. See here for full schedule.

This is the downtown Wagner bus. If you find it a bit tacky, there’ll be a Bach behind in two minutes.


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...


  1. “lucky he wasn’t born in Hamburg”, or indeed the small town of Wank, on the road from Nesselwang to Fussen.

  2. In my humble opinion, this is exactly the kind of cultural iconography that keeps people aware of classical music as part of their own identity. Beyond marketing, it’s the way a city, a country, and a culture invests in its home-grown creators. The great results are that it continually sells tickets to symphony and opera. This something the U.S. just doesn’t get. Where would you see advertising like this about Leonard Bernstein, Elliot Carter, John Adams, et al.? The only country to memorialize one of its own composers in an even more concretized way is Hungary: the airport in Budapest is named “Franz Liszt Airport.” The closest America comes is New Orleans’ “Louis Armstrong Airport,” a nice remembrance of a jazz legend. All the hand-wringing about dwindling symphony and opera audiences in America could be solved by following this example.

    • Chicago has an Arts Centre named after the once influential critic Claudia Cassidy.
      She is a reminder of how tastes change (in her reviews,tormenting Kubelik for programming too much ghastly modern music like Britten and Bartok) so i’d be inclined to go for names whose posterity is fairly assured.
      Regarding the USA :Bernstein is a great idea, but less sure about Carter and Adams. The sifting out process hasn’t taken place yet.
      I’d be inclined to go for Monk,Ives,Barber and even Morton Feldman instead.

    • Sir:

      I am not sure that naming airports after composers should be construed as the most “concretized” memorialisation (although I suppose it does cause the name to seep into many people’s conciousness), expect in the most literal sense of the quantity of concrete utilised in airport construction. And the practice is not unique to one country: Chopin, Mozart, Piazzolla, and Verdi have airports named after them too.

      Nonetheless, I agree that it is a good idea to have more musician eponyms.

    • Graf Nugent says:

      Here’s another article in the same vein, dating from 2011:

      The town fathers of Bayreuth aren’t exclusively focussed on RW…

  3. This bus looks very much like a tramway.

  4. Anders Nilsson says:

    Are there same signs on the buses which goes the nearby KZ-camps?

    • the unrelenting fascination for this part of history.
      I wondered how long it would take before the Nazis made an appearence.

      • Sorry, but you totally misunderstood my comment! On the contrary I think it is much appropriate to remind what actually Wagner was influenced by, and what role his works played of the nazi propaganda! Not a word of it in all above comments – strange, isn’t it?

        • Well, I suppose everybody who has more than trivial knowledge about classical music (i.e. about 99.9% of the readers of this blog) does already know about Wagner’s antisemitism and his role in nazi propaganda. So there might be no need for a cetereum censeo in every Wagner-related post.

        • analysis needs to be more penetrating that that offered
          by wikileaks

          • Anders Nilsson says:

            Eh…- wikileaks? The article on Wikipedia is correct accordingly to the content of Wagners pamphlet ¨About Jewishness in Music¨. There are english translations of the pamphlet available on the net – look for it yourself! Also, I have red the diaries of Cosima Wagner (Liszts daughter, married to Richard), which proves above all uncertainty about the antisemitic standpoint in the Willa Wahnfried. I have also studied the Nazi idelogy and its origins so I consider myself to be very well informed. How about you?

          • you are making the unlinked statements maybe you would care to present them in a logical sequence.

        • stanley cohen says:

          Did he not write one in 1839 and another ten years later, Norman?

      • Greg Hlatky says:

        In this case, 47 minutes after the usual America-bashing.

    • Michael Endres says:

      ….didn’t take long…51 minutes after the first posting.

  5. stanley cohen says:

    Pity his vindictive relatives didn’t allow Gottfried Wagner access to his heritage.

  6. Martin Bookspan says:

    In the Lincoln Center area in New York there is a Leonard Bernstein Way and a bust of Richard Tucker. At Tanglewood in Lenox, Massachusetts there is a Koussevitzky Music Shed, a Seiji Ozawa Hall, a Leonard Bernstein campus, and in the Formal Gardens a bust of Copland which will soon be joined by busts of Koussevitzky and Bernstein. In Salt Lake City, of course,there is the Abravanel Symphony Hall. (As I write this comment I am struck by the fact that these musical giants, except for Tucker, were part of the fabric of the Boston Symphony Orchestra and Tanglewood!)

  7. Robert Fitzpatrick says:

    There is a corner in Philadelphia where Stokowski Way meets Mozart Place. Both date from the 1980s.

  8. Martin Bookspan says:

    A propos, Stanley, the earlier comment that a Wagner poster is on German buses, and why can’t we in the United States honor our great musicians in similarly public fashion.

    • stanley cohen says:

      Thank you, Martin. In reply to queries raised elsewhere on this thread, the reason why Wagner was/is not celebrated outside the world of music is that given that he was a musical and dramatic genius, in his personal relationships he never left anyone without their feeling ‘there goes a world-class sh*t!’ In this he was consistent throughout his life, both with his sponsors and his acquaintances.

  9. The musical pedigree of Leipzig is quite distinguished. One can start with Bach, Schumann, Mendelssohn and Wagner. Brahms had a lot to do with Leipzig. Breitkopf and Hartel were connected with Leipzig. MEndelssohn made the Gewandhaus Orchestra world famous. I suppose that the city has been slow to capitalize on this heritage, (playing up the image of a German Vienna) because it was in the communist bloc for over 40 years. It is not too late to catch up. Why, in fact, does a city of such historical importance in music NOT have an opera house for Wagner’s operas?

    • Of course Leipzig has an opera house where Wagner’s works are staged. In the rest of this season there will be new productions of Die Feen and Rheingold (the start of a new Ring), revivals of Rienzi, Meistersinger and Parsifal, and a concert performance of Hollander… His works are regularly performed there and played by the Gewandhaus Orchester (which is the orchestra of Oper Leipzig).

  10. Lord Montague says:

    Aren’t we all, who grew up in a free society, blessed with the circumstance that we didn’t grow up and had to make difficult decisions about our professional careers in totalitarian Regimes?
    History tells us that most of those who sit on the high horses here and judge those who had to deal with much more difficult circumstances, would themselves fall compromised to the totalitarian and ideologically suffocating surroundings and arrange themselves with it.

    Or to paraphrase J.F.K.: You shouldn’t ask yourself, what the Nazis had done to you. You should ask yourself, what you would have done against the Nazis.

    • Indeed.

    • stanley cohen says:

      I can still see the late great Bernard Levin standing on the middle of the bridge at Heidelberg in his TV series and saying that before him was the quintessence of High German Kultur for the previous 600 years and the only thing missing was the Jews.

      • Lord Montague says:

        Sometimes it is hard to let go of the past and live in the present, particularly hard for some.

        • stanley cohen says:

          Particularly hard if individuals would rather not be reminded of values which they themselves may have espoused at the time or worse, sympathise with in the present.

          • Lord Montague says:

            May have espoused at the time? You think this blog is frequented by people 100 years old and older?

  11. Anders Nilsson says:
    and his stepson was Houston Stewart Chamberlain.

  12. Anders Nilsson says:

    No, in the first case Wagner wrote the antisemitic pamflett “About Jewishness in music” himself, which proves his standpoint. Secondly his stepson was one of the main figures behind the rascist ideology in the Nazi-regime. So there are indeed connections between Wagner and Nazism. To deny this fact is foolish.

  13. Since we are dealing in facts let us dispose of the ludicrous idea that Houston Stewart Chamberlain was Wagner’s stepson. Chamberlain did indeed marry Wagner’s daughter Eva but not until 1908, 25 years after Wagner died. Indeed Chamberlain’s deep involvement in the Bayreuth circle did not come about until after Wagner’s death.

  14. i’m not sure Carmina Burana was written for Nazi Party consumption, though the assosciation is certainly a strong one.
    They initially hated the piece, and only took it under their wing as the popularity of the piece was inescapable.

  15. stanley cohen says:

    Vicar of Bray, Norman?

  16. Karl Amadeus Hartmann is well-known for remaining in Germany during the Reich and living in what he termed “internal exile.” Paul Hindemith was another well-known composer who resisted and fled the country. I suspect there were others, but that we hear less about them because they are less well-known. Hartmann and Hindemith stand in contrast to the many composers who claimed they had no choice but to collaborate.

    These topics are still difficult to discuss in Germany. A good example is the story of the historian Anna Rosmus who endured years of harassment and even death threats to research the Nazi history of her town, Passau, which was published in 1984. A film based on her life was made in 1988 entitled “Das schreckliche Mädchen” (titled “The Nasty Girl” in English.) In the off chance you can find a copy, it provides a fairly accurate picture of the sorts of enforced silence that remained in Germany after the war and which can still be experienced to this day. You can read about Rosmus here:

    Rosmus’ experiences provide perspective on some of the discussion a late on Slipped Disk about what people prefer to not see discussed.

  17. Walter Braunfels was another German composer who lived in internal exile during the war. His opera “The Birds” was very popular in the 30s. As a result, Hitler asked Braunfels to write the Nazi anthem not realizing he was half Jewish. Braunfels indignantly turned the commission down. He withdrew from public life but continued to compose. He managed to pass the war years without being murdered, but three of his sons were conscripted into the Wehrmacht.

  18. I notice that the entire video of “Das Schreckliche Mädchen” is on Youtube with English subtitles. It is based on Anna Rosmus’ life. Though fictionalized to some degree, it is a good way to gain at least some understanding of the more difficult sides of Germany’s Vergangenheitsbewältigung (a German word that means something like processing the past.)

    The German director Michael Verhoefen (not to be confused with the Dutch Hollywood director Paul Verhoefen) has produced several films dealing with Germany’s Vergangenheitsbewältigung. His anti-Vietnam war film, “o.k.” caused a scandal at the 20th Berlin International Film Festival. “Das Schreckliche Mädchen” is meaningful to me because my wife and I have faced similar problems.

  19. stanley cohen says:

    A good friend in his late 80s, who passed away last year, was commandant of a British POW Camp for German officers in Alexandria at the end of the War. He received a deputation of senior officers who wished to complain that he played Mozart on the public address system all day long. When they asked him why he did it, he told them it was the antidote to Wagner.
    Charles Spencer was a Kindertransport boy who arrived in 1938 from Vienna, conscripted to a tank regiment in time for the D-Day landings and transferred to the Intelligence Corps when they found that he was fluent in three languages. After interrogating German officers, he was sent to Egypt where inter alia he met, eloped with and married his wife. After the war, and penniless, he and his wife started a business which flourished to the extent that he was able to retire at fifty just in time to help save the Philharmonia Chorus [and Orchestra] when Walter Legge decided to disband it. For 18 years he was the Manager of the Philharmonia Chorus, which rose to become one of the finest [and wealthiest] symphonic choruses in the world. It was my privilege to have sung with him for nearly 20 years and to be able to call him a good friend.

  20. stanley cohen says:

    Last July, Norman. Rest in Peace – a great guy. His daughter persuaded him to write his memoirs about ten or so years ago and he had no computer so he produced ten copies on a word-processor and gave me one of them. A small price for saying Kaddish for a mate. His son Robert located his original 1938 Kindertransport documentation and photo, which I added to the ‘volume.’ It sits in my library here in the Holy City alongside Mahler’s biography. he’d be comfortable there.

  21. stanley cohen says:

    Carl Orff was [unambiguously] Hitler’s court composer.
    The fact that his music is so accessible compared with that of Wagner is not incidental…

  22. Not so. He was highly ambivalent. After the War, he married the anti-Nazi writer Luise Rinser. His is a very complex history. NL

  23. A bit of one. He was v close to KA Hartmann, the only German composer who was a known resistant.

  24. stanley cohen says:

    “Bit of one,” Norman? Is that analogous to ‘slightly pregnant?’ He’s certainly one of quite a few who managed to suppress their horror of the Nazi regime until the time came for them to justify themselves after 1945, at which point they all claimed to have covertly helped those of their colleagues who were at risk. Yet somehow they managed to survive Gestapo scrutiny…

  25. If you studied the documents, you would not make such sweeping generalisations.

  26. stanley cohen says:

    - admittedly a luxury afforded to a few – such as yourself, of course, but the overall picture represents a smell that wouldn’t go away [sorry about the mixed metaphor]

  27. I never heard that Charles died. I’m sorry to hear that. He was a near-neighbour and a rich source of musical goings-on.

  28. ah, nice.

an ArtsJournal blog