Shalom Life | April 23, 2014

Israeli Orchestra Plays Hitler's Favourite Composer

An Israeli Orchestra played Wagner at the Beyreuth Festival, a favourite of Adolf Hitler's

By: Nelly Lalany

Published: July 28th, 2011 in News » World

Israeli Orchestra Plays Hitler's Favourite Composer

On Tuesday night, an Israeli orchestra took to the stage to play one of Richard Wagner’s compositions at the renowned Bayreuth Festival in Berlin. Sounds like an enjoyable night at the symphony, until you remember that Wagner was one of Hitler’s favorite composers and “Siegfried Idyll” (the piece being played) was written when Wagner’s second wife, Cosima, gave birth to their son Siegfried in 1869.

Hitler’s great adoration of Wagner’s compositions stemmed from their personal relationship. Hitler was Wagner’s muse, and likewise, Hitler was compelled by the composer’s anti-Semitic tributes claiming that Jews were corrupt.

Interestingly, Wagner founded the Bayreuth Festival in 1876, and Hitler was a major advocate (obviously due to the gratuitous brown nosing) who attended every summer from 1933-1939.

It seems that the issue is not that Wagner’s composition was played, but that it was an Israeli band that played it. After all, he did found the festival. Some people are quite outraged by it, and Elan Steinberg, deputy head of the American Gathering of Holocaust Survivors and their Descendants says,

“A disgraceful abandonment of solidarity with those who suffered at the hand of the Nazis.”

Steinberg’s message is understandable, but yet it is the Israeli band that felt justified in not only playing at a festival founded by Wagner, but also playing his music. Perhaps, this is a step forward in solidarity rather than a step back.

It is an overwhelming task to take on especially with the expectation of intense backlash, and deserves some sort of optimism.

Roberto Paternostro, conductor of the Israel Chamber Orchestra, who’s mother was a survivor of the Nazi genocide, defended the performance and said quite shockingly and simply, "Wagner's ideology and anti-Semitism was terrible, but on the other hand he was a great composer.”

The controversy isn’t exactly a new development; other Israeli orchestras have performed Wagner’s music in previous years.

In 2001, Daniel Barenboim decided to conduct a piece called, “Tristan and Isolde” in Israel. A bold move, which lead to many members of the audience leaving the theatre.

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