Embrace Wagner’s music, not his character

Re: “Wagner comment showed lack of empathy,” letter, Aug. 8.


Two readers expressed their misgivings about our new Victoria Symphony maestro’s personal opinion that it is time to overcome Richard Wagner’s often-cited anti-Semitism and better concentrate on his music.

It should be remarked that Wagner most likely had no real political opinion, but definitely a most controversial character, including his egotism, and his use (or abuse?) of all others devoted to him. Remember how he lied to his king (Ludwig II of Bavaria) about his affair with Cosima von Buelow.

Contrary to his stated anti-Semitism, he had good Jewish friends: Karl Tausig, Hermann Levi, Josef Rubinstein and Angelo Neumann.

Not to play Wagner’s celestial music based on his “political opinion” would be a most regrettable mistake, as one of his Jewish admirers and a great musician himself, Leonard Bernstein, stated in the New York Times in 1991: “Wagner’s music isn’t racist: Wagner is long dead and buried, as is the Third Reich, but we music lovers are alive and hungry for great music. And if Wagner wrote great music, as I think he did, why should we not embrace it fully and be nourished by it?”


Hermann Helmuth


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