Israel's Wagner boycott due to ignorance, says conductor
The central problem behind Israel's long-standing boycott of the music of Richard Wagner is ignorance, the conductor of Israel's first-ever concert devoted to the music of the German composer said.
"Highly intelligent people – when I ask them; ‘When did Wagner live?’ most, if not all, reply, 'in Nazi Germany,'" Asher Fisch told dpa. In fact, Wagner died in 1883 - 50 years before the Nazis came to power.
On June 16, Fisch will conduct an ad-hoc orchestra of 100 musicians at the Hilton Hotel Tel Aviv.
Organisers had to secure an alternative venue after Tel Aviv University canceled a performance set for June 18, saying it would offend Holocaust survivors.
Wagner's music has long been taboo in Israel, because of the composer's own anti-Semitism, and his status as a favourite of Adolf Hitler.
"The problem with Wagner," said Fisch, "is that the boycott is not only among Holocaust survivors. It's political, it has become a boycott of the second generation as well."
"If we don't abolish the boycott, it will remain for ever," he worries.
Fisch, born in Jerusalem in 1958 to German-born parents who survived the Holocaust, emphasized that he was in no way trying to justify Wagner.
"Wagner hated Jews, he hated the French, he hated Jesuits, he thought the press was controlled by Jews, he thought banks which did not extend credit were controlled by Jews..." he said.
"He wrote Der Judentum in der Musik (Jewishness, or Judaism, in Music), which is definitely an anti-Semitic article."
And yet, he maintains, "Wagner influenced classical music more than any other composer in history.
"It is not possible," he said, "that musicians in an orchestra, or singers, will grow up and live their lives as musicians without playing Wagner's music."
"Wagner is one of the most important composers in history – whether you like it or not."