Controversial Musicians

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dulcinea
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Controversial Musicians

Post by dulcinea » Wed Nov 09, 2005 6:28 pm

For well-known reasons, Wagner has always been controversial--not only during his life, but even 122 years after his death. What about other musicians? How many deserve to be controversial? Leonard Bernstein's politics certainly upset many people; I myself am still angry over his use of the MISSA IN TEMPORE BELLI as a political propaganda tool.
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Re: Controversial Musicians

Post by Ralph » Wed Nov 09, 2005 6:39 pm

dulcinea wrote:For well-known reasons, Wagner has always been controversial--not only during his life, but even 122 years after his death. What about other musicians? How many deserve to be controversial? Leonard Bernstein's politics certainly upset many people; I myself am still angry over his use of the MISSA IN TEMPORE BELLI as a political propaganda tool.
*****

Bernstein followed in a long tradition when he slightly altered the "Ode to Joy" in Beethoven's Ninth Symphony for an historic celebration in Berlin of the fall of The Wall.

Composers and conductors have often used music for political purposes, sometimes by the nature of the work or the circumstances under which a performance is given.

Toscanini famously changed Verdi's "Hymn of Nations" to reflect the Allied coalition in WWII.

Both Zubin Mehta and, more recently, Daniel Barenboim, performed Wagner pieces in Israel igniting not just a media storm but some fisticuffs in the audience between those who do not want Wagner's works performed and those who do.

In totalitarian states composers often serve the political master or else. Vide Shostakovich. And many others in that era.

Dittersdorf never surrendered to the political passions of his age and his music remains unpolluted by raging issues.
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Brendan

Post by Brendan » Wed Nov 09, 2005 7:24 pm

Politically controversial or musically/artistically, ala Schoenberg, Cage etc? Beethoven was a musical revolutionary in his time, and J.S. Bach kept "correcting" his son's compositions, who became incredibly influential over the radical new style we call "classical" with its far-out exposition-development-recapitulation form.

Mozart's operas were a scandal - and sometimes sung in German ala Weber, that other radical so scary that when he went to conduct an orchestra in England with a baton, half the orchestra fled thinking he was going to beat them with it, not time. Folk rioted in the hall and the streets when Carmen was first performed.

I'm sure the list is long indeed.
Last edited by Brendan on Wed Nov 09, 2005 7:27 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Ditters dorf?

Post by DavidRoss » Wed Nov 09, 2005 7:26 pm

Ralph's frequent references to Ditter's dorf finally got me curious enough to do a web search and this is what I found:

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"Most men, including those at ease with problems of the greatest complexity, can seldom accept even the simplest and most obvious truth if it would oblige them to admit the falsity of conclusions which they have delighted in explaining to colleagues, which they have proudly taught to others, and which they have woven, thread by thread, into the fabric of their lives." ~Leo Tolstoy

"It is the highest form of self-respect to admit our errors and mistakes and make amends for them. To make a mistake is only an error in judgment, but to adhere to it when it is discovered shows infirmity of character." ~Dale Turner

"Anyone who doesn't take truth seriously in small matters cannot be trusted in large ones either." ~Albert Einstein
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Re: Ditters dorf?

Post by Corlyss_D » Wed Nov 09, 2005 10:30 pm

DavidRoss wrote:Ralph's frequent references to Ditter's dorf finally got me curious enough to do a web search and this is what I found:
:lol: :lol: :lol: :lol: :lol: :lol: :lol: :lol: :lol:

David, you get the Post of the Day Award!
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Post by Gregg Deering » Wed Nov 09, 2005 11:20 pm

I assume you are referring to his anti-semitism.

What I find interesting are other anti-Semites who get a pass. Like Degas, Anton Chekhov and Dostoevsky, and remain culture heroes. On a lesser artistic level the painter Vlaminck collaborated with the Nazis and his paintings are collected by jews and gentiles alike.

I have not delved in to Wagner's anti-Semitic writing (or little else of his writing for that matter). I am a huge fan, and as repulsed as I might be I choose to remember that he chose a Jew to conduct the first performance of Parsifal. Er... not with out trying to convert him first. Business before ignorance.

Wagner could not have imagined the Holocaust, no more than Karl Marks could have imagined Lenin/Stalin/Mao.


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Post by Lance » Thu Nov 10, 2005 1:01 am

If we are talking about musicians and not just composers, there are quite a few controversial artists that immediately come to mind, and most of them are attached to the Nazi era:

Walter Gieseking, pianist
Kirsten Flagstad, soprano
Wilhelm Furtwängler, conductor
Elly Ney, pianist [allegedly Hitler's favourite pianist!]
Alfred Cortot, pianist
Herbert von Karajan, conductor
Oswald Kabasta, conductor (who committed suicide)
... the list is extensive

Interestingly, ALL were cleared of collaborating with the Nazis though Cortot and Ney were more-or-less "forgiven" and went on to have great careers. Frankly, it does colour my own attitude (negatively) whenever I hear any of their records (with the exception of Furtwängler) who I believe helped countless Jews. Karajan was, from all accounts, heavily involved in Nazi activities. [Cellist Pablo Casals took such exception to his former piano partner's allegations that he no longer could make music with Cortot.] All I can say that if any of us manage to slip through the Pearly White Gates, we not see too many of the above artists ... on the other hand, we may see them down there!

On a more current note, there is a lot of controversy about composer Philip Glass, whose music I rather enjoy, oddly, since at heart, I am strongly attached to music from the Romantic period. The controversy doesn't stem to any obtuse activities, but more specifically to his music
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Re: Controversial Musicians

Post by rogch » Thu Nov 10, 2005 4:37 am

Ralph wrote: Both Zubin Mehta and, more recently, Daniel Barenboim, performed Wagner pieces in Israel igniting not just a media storm but some fisticuffs in the audience between those who do not want Wagner's works performed and those who do.
Zubin Mehta was also conductor in the "three tenors" concerts, that shuold have been controversial.
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Post by val » Thu Nov 10, 2005 6:07 am

There are controversial artists for different reasons.

Example: Harnoncourt is considered a great conductor. The same with Abbado.

In my opinion both would deserve to be the conductor of the Alaska Symphony Orchestra or the Tumbuctu Symphonic Orchestra.

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Re: Ditters dorf?

Post by Ralph » Thu Nov 10, 2005 8:39 am

DavidRoss wrote:Ralph's frequent references to Ditter's dorf finally got me curious enough to do a web search and this is what I found:

Image
*****

That's actually a photo of his son, Siegfried, who wasn't a composer but who dissipated the considerable estate his father left him.

That photo was taken during an historic weekend when Siegfried first met P.D.Q. Bach.
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Post by pizza » Thu Nov 10, 2005 9:08 am

Most certainly Stravinsky deserves to be honored as the valedictorian of the class of the controversial. Was there ever another riotous incident such as that which occurred at the premiere of Le Sacre? (Other than the Rodney King riot, of course!) :wink:

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Post by DavidRoss » Thu Nov 10, 2005 10:00 am

Seems to me that many if not most of the very talented are controversial. Some invite controversy. Glenn Gould comes to mind. Some are controversial simply because they mind their Ps & Qs and shy away from extremes. Brendel, for instance. And some are controversial precisely because they tend to extremes--i.e. Kovacevich.

Then we have opera stars, especially sopranos, who are controversial because the favorite sport of opera fans is canary baiting. Sometimes they seem more rabidly partisan than football fans! And there's nothing they like better than turning on last year's darling just as soon as she receives general acclaim. So to avoid controversy, singers must be good, but not so good as to attract much favorable attention.

Anyone who challenges the status quo is controversial practically by definition. Harnoncourt, anyone? Anyone who succeeds a beloved idol in a conductor's post is doomed, sometimes even if they're the second or third successor. Just ask Welser-Möst.

Then there's controversy over extra-musical considerations. Von Karajan and Wagner come quickly to mind. In some cases supporters might welcome such controversy if it deflects attention from over-rated musical gifts. And as always, it seems, there's controversy over gender (ho-hum). Can a woman really lead a first-rate orchestra, or compose serious orchestral music? I wonder what Alsop and Higdon would say....
"Most men, including those at ease with problems of the greatest complexity, can seldom accept even the simplest and most obvious truth if it would oblige them to admit the falsity of conclusions which they have delighted in explaining to colleagues, which they have proudly taught to others, and which they have woven, thread by thread, into the fabric of their lives." ~Leo Tolstoy

"It is the highest form of self-respect to admit our errors and mistakes and make amends for them. To make a mistake is only an error in judgment, but to adhere to it when it is discovered shows infirmity of character." ~Dale Turner

"Anyone who doesn't take truth seriously in small matters cannot be trusted in large ones either." ~Albert Einstein
"Truth is incontrovertible; malice may attack it and ignorance may deride it; but, in the end, there it is." ~Winston Churchill

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Post by jbuck919 » Thu Nov 10, 2005 11:40 am

pizza wrote:Most certainly Stravinsky deserves to be honored as the valedictorian of the class of the controversial. Was there ever another riotous incident such as that which occurred at the premiere of Le Sacre? (Other than the Rodney King riot, of course!) :wink:
That riot was inflamed by an organized claque, a common phenomenon of the time. Stravinsky was widely accepted and acclaimed in his own lifetime, as have been most great composers. The controversy is most often extrinsic, as with Wagner.

On the other board I got into an unfortunate back-and-forth about whether Beethoven was controversial in his own lifetime. The people who thought that controversy means that some critics don't understand your music and people like me who think that a composer who consistently receives a huge appreciative audience of knowing listeners is not controversial seemed unbreachable. Of course, by my criterion Brahms was controversial in the early part of his career, though toward the end he almost had his own sort of riot on his hands when he attended for the last time a performance of his own music.

There's nothing remarkable about it. All one has to do is hit the right keys at the right time and the instrument plays itself.
-- Johann Sebastian Bach

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Post by pizza » Thu Nov 10, 2005 12:30 pm

jbuck919 wrote:
pizza wrote:Most certainly Stravinsky deserves to be honored as the valedictorian of the class of the controversial. Was there ever another riotous incident such as that which occurred at the premiere of Le Sacre? (Other than the Rodney King riot, of course!) :wink:
That riot was inflamed by an organized claque, a common phenomenon of the time. Stravinsky was widely accepted and acclaimed in his own lifetime, as have been most great composers. The controversy is most often extrinsic, as with Wagner.
Organized claque or not, the music was controversial. There was nothing extrinsic about that controversy -- it was about the music, not the man.

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You might be interested in this...

Post by RebLem » Thu Nov 10, 2005 1:27 pm

You might be interested in this little amusing exercise, designed, through a series of multiple choice questions, what dead Russian composer you most resemble.

http://www.doppelgriff.com/russian/

:D
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Post by Lance » Thu Nov 10, 2005 1:33 pm

Musically controversial are three performers, {1} I mentioned on a previous post:

{1} Pianist João Carlos Martins - a pianist who has made specialty of JS Bach's music, but nearly every I have heard him play on discs is quite contrary to everyone else's performances.

{2} Pianist Glenn Gould - another Bachian who truly brought much of that master's music alive (starting with the Goldbergs). Personally, I am a great fan of Gould. His recordings have shown us more up-to-date performance practices, which aren't usually appreciated by the purists. Still, his interpretations are still being sought and bought by unlimited numbers of music lovers and record collectors.

{3} Conductor Leopold Stokowski - another esteemed conductor who, for many, often performed music larger than life, set up his orchestras differerntly, augmented sections. His orchestral performances of Bach's music in transcriptions has also been questionable by many. Still, Stokowski brought much of Bach's music, transcriptions or not, to the public who might not otherwise hear the music at all.
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Re: You might be interested in this...

Post by jbuck919 » Thu Nov 10, 2005 1:38 pm

RebLem wrote:You might be interested in this little amusing exercise, designed, through a series of multiple choice questions, what dead Russian composer you most resemble.

http://www.doppelgriff.com/russian/

:D
I've seen that before and it is obviously designed with Mussorgsky in mind for any alcoholic who is foolish enough to answer the questions honestly. I find myself not resembling any composer of any nationality because of my supernatural lack of talent in that direction. In that respect, I admire all the Russians, however much that may shock Karl Henning.

There's nothing remarkable about it. All one has to do is hit the right keys at the right time and the instrument plays itself.
-- Johann Sebastian Bach

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Post by RebLem » Thu Nov 10, 2005 1:47 pm

And then there was a whole other class of conductors, like Koussevitzky and Beecham, who were controversial because their relatives were rich enough to literally buy them orchestras and give them a giant leg up. Rachmaninoff also came from a wealthy family. The Soviets never quite figured out what attitude they wanted to adopt toward him; on the one hand, he was an aristocrat who hated the Soviet regime, but on the other hand, his music was quintessentially Russian and seem to reflect the ideal of socialist realism better than many a composer molded by the Soviet system. Generally, though, they seem to have come down on the side of his music rather than his politics.
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Post by jbuck919 » Thu Nov 10, 2005 1:55 pm

RebLem wrote:And then there was a whole other class of conductors, like Koussevitzky and Beecham, who were controversial because their relatives were rich enough to literally buy them orchestras and give them a giant leg up.
I didn't know that about those two conductors, but wasn't that also true of Karajan?

Speaking of Germans who were mentioned on the, shall we say, WW II thread, I have heard that Elisabeth Schwarzkopf loved performing for the Fuehrer. Of course there is such a thing as political naivete combined with indifference, though I know it must sound sexist to apply that to a tender young thing like Schwarzkopf at the time and not all her big brothers.

There's nothing remarkable about it. All one has to do is hit the right keys at the right time and the instrument plays itself.
-- Johann Sebastian Bach

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Post by Cyril Ignatius » Thu Nov 10, 2005 3:47 pm

Did I misread the reference suggesting that by all accounts Von Karajan was involved in Nazi activities? Forgive me if this sounds strident in any way, for that is not my intent, (I was in fact born long after the days of the Nazis, and maybe my information is incorrect) but the reading I have done, clearly suggests that Von Karajan was not involved with the Nazis. Von Karajan was one of the greatest conductors ever. And the many accounts I have of him also suggest he was a very fine human being. Moreover, he collaborated extensively with Jewish musicians early and late.

To be in Germany at that time, and especially to be in any prominent post, was more or less to be declared by records a "Nazi", and in many cases, "active' in "Nazi activities". Consequently, even Cardinal Ratzinger, in becoming Pope Benedict was revealed to have been one of the "Nazi Youth" even though you would have trouble finding anyone further away from Naziism than Ratzinger.

Von Karajan was no Nazi. If there is evidence otherwise, where is it?

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Brendan

Post by Brendan » Thu Nov 10, 2005 3:55 pm

That Karajan was a card-carrying member of the Nazi party from 1933 to 1945 is a matter of historical record and personal admission of the man on video. That HvK was a great conducter is far more debatable. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Herbert_von_Karajan)

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Post by Werner » Thu Nov 10, 2005 7:35 pm

I don't know, Brendan - I have never found him overly sympathetic - but I've just finished reading Harold Schonberg's "The Glorious Ones" - a Schonberg work I've heard about on this board. It contains a chapter devoted to Karajan, Bernstein, and Solti, as three giants of their day. While there are certainly particular aspects of his personality - quite apart from his Nazi associations - and the rivalry betwen him and Furtwängler - in which my sympathies are with the latter - it's unlikely that he could have accomplished what he did without being an exceptional - yes, even a great - musician.
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Re: You might be interested in this...

Post by DavidRoss » Thu Nov 10, 2005 7:38 pm

RebLem wrote:You might be interested in this little amusing exercise, designed, through a series of multiple choice questions, what dead Russian composer you most resemble.
Gosh--it works! It gave me Stravinsky, who is my favorite Russian composer, and whom I resemble in every respect but talent, height, ethnicity, looks, demeanor, and astrological sign.
"Most men, including those at ease with problems of the greatest complexity, can seldom accept even the simplest and most obvious truth if it would oblige them to admit the falsity of conclusions which they have delighted in explaining to colleagues, which they have proudly taught to others, and which they have woven, thread by thread, into the fabric of their lives." ~Leo Tolstoy

"It is the highest form of self-respect to admit our errors and mistakes and make amends for them. To make a mistake is only an error in judgment, but to adhere to it when it is discovered shows infirmity of character." ~Dale Turner

"Anyone who doesn't take truth seriously in small matters cannot be trusted in large ones either." ~Albert Einstein
"Truth is incontrovertible; malice may attack it and ignorance may deride it; but, in the end, there it is." ~Winston Churchill

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Brendan

Post by Brendan » Thu Nov 10, 2005 7:43 pm

Werner,

I said it was debatable, not that he wasn't great. I find him, as a matter of personal taste, very hit-or-miss and the sound he created with the BPO not suited to some works. The opening of the adagio to Bruckner 7 springs to mind - it's so "rounded" it loses all clarity and impetus to my ear. Yet I consider his Scheherezade, Valkyrie, Bartok Concerto for Orchestra and others to be quite the finest I've heard.

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Post by jbuck919 » Thu Nov 10, 2005 11:04 pm

Werner wrote:I don't know, Brendan - I have never found him overly sympathetic - but I've just finished reading Harold Schonberg's "The Glorious Ones" - a Schonberg work I've heard about on this board. It contains a chapter devoted to Karajan, Bernstein, and Solti, as three giants of their day. While there are certainly particular aspects of his personality - quite apart from his Nazi associations - and the rivalry betwen him and Furtwängler - in which my sympathies are with the latter - it's unlikely that he could have accomplished what he did without being an exceptional - yes, even a great - musician.
I can never think about Karajan without thinking of his public persona as opposed to what he was really like, a distinction that only came to my attention when I was well into my maturity. His LP covers were all photographed so as to present him as a titan with a great mane of hair. In reality, he was a small, bird-like man, completely unprepossessing in his personal appearance.

As to his musical accomplishment, it would be foolish to doubt his basic talent and achievement. But a case could be made that he took the best orchestra in the world through decades of its career without achieving a single performance of historic interest. I would rate Karl Boehm above him at any time.

There's nothing remarkable about it. All one has to do is hit the right keys at the right time and the instrument plays itself.
-- Johann Sebastian Bach

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Post by Werner » Fri Nov 11, 2005 12:51 am

Well, we each have our own personal reactions to people. I can't say I know Boehm enough to express an opinion.

But your reference to public persona and actual personal characteristics prompts me to go slightly off subject - Gneral George Patton, to be specific. I saw him quite frequently through the European campaign, when he visited our Division headquarters. You know the guy - especially as played by George C. Scott. Big, burly, tough, spit-and polish. He was all of that, and a proven brilliant commander who found his best assignment in that time - and died before he could go on into an era - or an assihnment that he could not fit into.

His persona called for rough-and-tough language in a rough-and-tough tongue. It was all there except for his voice - which was high and squeaky - no match to his image.

So much for the odd couple - Patton and Karajan!
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Post by jserraglio » Fri Nov 11, 2005 7:22 am

One composer that comes to mind is John Adams--his opera The Death of Klinghofer--denounced by some for glamorizing terrorists, also as anti-Semitic and anti-American.

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Post by Ralph » Fri Nov 11, 2005 7:55 am

As I've said on previous threads and boards, anyone seriously interested in classical music during the Third Reich must read Douglas Kater's three-volume survey of that subject. Indispensable and very readable.
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Post by jserraglio » Fri Nov 11, 2005 8:59 am

jbuck919 wrote:I can never think about Karajan without thinking of his public persona as opposed to what he was really like. . . . As to his musical accomplishment, it would be foolish to doubt his basic talent and achievement. But a case could be made that he took the best orchestra in the world through decades of its career without achieving a single performance of historic interest. I would rate Karl Boehm above him at any time.
The president of the Sir Thomas Beecham Society, USA once told me that he had stopped collecting Karajan's recordings (this guy had a massive, important collection of LP and 78 recordings) because Karajan had nothing left to say--he simply repeated the same old repertoire in the same old way.

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Post by pizza » Fri Nov 11, 2005 9:07 am

jbuck919 wrote:
As to his musical accomplishment, it would be foolish to doubt his basic talent and achievement. But a case could be made that he took the best orchestra in the world through decades of its career without achieving a single performance of historic interest.
I would rate his 1982 live Mahler 9 and his last Bruckner 8 as superb and of historic interest insofar as they are the only recordings of his I can think of that may qualify as being of historic interest! :wink:

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Post by rogch » Fri Nov 11, 2005 10:52 am

jserraglio wrote:
jbuck919 wrote:I can never think about Karajan without thinking of his public persona as opposed to what he was really like. . . . As to his musical accomplishment, it would be foolish to doubt his basic talent and achievement. But a case could be made that he took the best orchestra in the world through decades of its career without achieving a single performance of historic interest. I would rate Karl Boehm above him at any time.
The president of the Sir Thomas Beecham Society, USA once told me that he had stopped collecting Karajan's recordings (this guy had a massive, important collection of LP and 78 recordings) because Karajan had nothing left to say--he simply repeated the same old repertoire in the same old way.
Being immune to change is not a good thing for a musician, but in von Karajan's case it had its advantages for later generations. The fact that he didn't change much gives us a chance to listen to an old tradition of directing with decent sound quality.

During his lifetime, von Karajan was idolized by many for his recordings. Later his qualities as a conductor has been brought into question, some people can't stand his recordings. I am one of those who like some of his recordings and are bored to death by others. Who is the better of von Karajan and Böhm? I don't know really, but Klemperer beats both of them.

His political record doesn't bother me that much unless it his political wiews make him a worse conductor. We Norwegians have had plenty of practice in how to deal with this kind of problems. Our great author Knut Hamsun was a nazi and a traitor and even gave his Nobel prize medal to Göbbels. And his political views are often apparent in his books, that is a real problem. Having learned to live with that, von Karajan represents a smaller problem. I don't like him as a person of course, but i can listen to his music if its good.
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Post by Cyril Ignatius » Fri Nov 11, 2005 4:19 pm

No argument here on Maestro Karl Bohm, definitely one of the great ones, his Beethoven 6th Symphony and his Schubert 8th and 9th on Deutche Grammophon are among my favorites. And there were other truly great conductors, who don't get the praise they should.

To add to my earlier comments on Von Karajan, most accounts of the Nazi era suggest that being on various membership lists for the Nazis was a meaningless formality for many professional people of that time and place. We too easily invest a sense of intention, or purpose on the part of people who were on these membership lists. It wasn't like most of us joining a political party or organization today. Obviously, many people on these lists were awful Nazis. Others, were simply on the lists for reasons of professional survival - particularly a prominant talented conductor like Von Karajan. I would also recommend that people also read Furtwangler's own account of these issues, and how he arrived at his own decision to continue to conduct in Germany as the Nazi movement took over.

Von Karajan professionally survived the Nazi regime - he did not support it. And to take nothing away from other great conductors who I also love, Von Karajan was a central figure in the building of the great Berlin Philharmonic whose recordings of Austro-German classics (Beethoven, Brahms, Bruckner especially) are rightly treated with almost devotional admiration by so many. They are consistently solid, beautiful recordings. His conducting of Sibelius drew great admiration from Jean Sibelius himself.

If Von Karajan is counted among the controversial musicians, I think it has something to do with the fact that he was so incredible successful, and had such celebrity status in some circles, and perhaps because he was seen to avoid some of the fads or trends of particular times and places.

Cyril Ignatius
Cyril Ignatius

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Schwarzkopf and Karajan

Post by RebLem » Sat Nov 12, 2005 4:41 am

I own a copy of Baker's Biographical Dictionary of Musicians, 7th edition, edited by Nicolas Slonimsky, all 2577 numbered pages of it, plus 42 pages of roman numeralled pages in front. :D

The inimitable Professor Slonimsky liked to go into Nazi pasts, and he was in the regular habit of actually publishing their Nazi Party membership numbers and join dates.

Elizabeth Schwarzkopf was assigned Nazi Party membership # 7548960 when she joined on March 1, 1940. Membership at that time was required for artists employed by national theaters.

Of Karajan, Slonimsky writes, "There was a dark side to Karajan's character, revealing his lack of human sensitivity and even a failure to act in his own best interests. He became fascinated with the organizing solidity of the National Socialist Party in Germany. On April 9, 1933, he registered in the Salzburg office of the Austrian National Socialist Party; his party number was 607525. A month later, he joined the German Nazi orgainization in Ulm under No. 3430914....In...1932, he married Elmy Holgerloef...; he divorced her in 1942 and married Anita Gutermann; he divorced her too after he found out that her ancestry was partly Jewish." Of course, he himself was anything but a "pure Aryan"; his father was Greek and his mother was a Serb, whose maiden name was Cosmac.

In going through the book, I have found only two artists who worked extensively in Nazi Germany who never joined the party--Wilhelm Furtwangler and Karl Bohm.

As to Karajan's artistic heritage, I too find the phrase "hit or miss" an apt one. His work seems characterized by a driving force which tends to obscure appropriate instrumental balances. The softer voices get overwhelmed by oppressive masses of string sound far too often.

HIs approach to Beethoven is seen by many as iconic; but the only ones that impress me are the 3rd and 5th from the 1963 (?) set; even then, in the 5th, the strings sound far too mellow and rounded. His Eroica was, however, my favorite recording of the piece until I acquired (for $1 in a CD cut-out bin!) a peformance conducted by Joseph Keilberth, still my favorite.

I remember attending one Karajan concert. I forget when it was, late 70's or early 80's, at Orchestra Hall in Chicago, when he was on tour with the BPO. I heard him do the Brahms 1st and 3rd symphonies. They were tightly controlled; unlike some other conductors, the live performance sounded exactly like his recordings. I heard a much better performance of the 1st Sympohny 10 days later when Giulini conducted the Chicago Symphony.

Most of the Karajan recordings I like are of operas, esp Puccini and Strauss. He also, for some reason, seemed to me to do especially well by Sibelius.
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Reply to Cyril Ignatius.

Post by RebLem » Sat Nov 12, 2005 7:30 am

I did not see Cyril Ignatius's post before I posted mine; I was in the process of composing mine when he posted; otherwise, I would have responded to him in the post above.

Obviously, I agree with him about Karajan's Sibelius.

However, someone who joined the Austrian Nazi Party on April 9, 1933 as Karajan did joined long before it was a political or professional necessity. Bruno Walter, a Jew, was the music director of the Vienna Opera from 1936-1938, when his contract was terminated after the Anschluss. If you are a Nazi 5 years before Jews weren't allowed to conduct anymore, you were doing so out of commitment, not professional necessity, Cyril.

Of course, Elizabeth Schwarzkopf is a different story. Her membership does indeed seem to have been pro forma.
Don't drink and drive. You might spill it.--J. Eugene Baker, aka my late father
"We're not generating enough angry white guys to stay in business for the long term."--Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S. Carolina.
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Post by MaestroDJS » Sat Nov 12, 2005 8:16 am

pizza wrote:Most certainly Stravinsky deserves to be honored as the valedictorian of the class of the controversial. Was there ever another riotous incident such as that which occurred at the premiere of Le Sacre? (Other than the Rodney King riot, of course!) :wink:
The French title Le Sacre du Printemps was once poorly translated into English as The Riot of King, and that name still surfaces from time to time. :wink:

It's hard to be more overtly controversial than to depict the assassination of a king onstage, and one such opera is A Masked Ball. Actually it's 3 operas, Un ballo in maschera by Giuseppe Verdi, Il reggente by Saverio Mercadante, and Gustave III, ou Le bal masqué by Daniel François Auber. The plot is loosely based on fact: In March 1792, King Gustav III of Sweden was shot and killed at a masked ball in Stockholm. The king had sought to curb the powers of the Swedish nobility, and his assassin was a disaffected minister named Anckarstroem. In their 1833 version for the Paris Opéra, Daniel François Auber and his librettist Eugène Scribe presented the action as it supposedly happened, although elaborated for dramatic effect. Although Auber's opera has not survived the test of time, its libretto has had a long life. It was later adapted for the Italian stage in a version composed by Saverio Mercadante as Il reggente, although his librettist Salvatore Cammarano transferred the action to Scotland during the time of Mary Stuart. Both operas formed the bases for Verdi's version.

Teatro San Carlo in Naples commissioned Verdi's version for performance early in 1858. However in the final years before the Unification of Italy, given the politically-charged atmosphere, any subject which depicted the murder of a king was taboo. The Neapolitan censors demanded the action be transferred to an unspecified pagan northern European country. Verdi withdrew his score, Teatro San Carlo sued him for breach of contract, and Verdi countersued. In 1859 Teatro Apollo in Rome accepted Un Ballo in Maschera for performance, provided the setting was relocated, so Verdi and his librettist Antonio Somma transferred the action to distant 17th-Century Boston, and the king became the colonial governor.

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