Richard Wagner’s music was played in Germany on Tuesday evening Israeli Chamber Orchestra. Wagner was an 18th century composer that had a dramatic influence on opera and music overall. But, during his lifetime he wrote anti-Semitic essays that said Jews had no place in German society. Hitler hijacked Wagner’s music to advance Hitler’s vile cause.
Many refuse to support any public playing of Wagner’s music, especially after World War II. They would like to banish his music to the trash bin of history in hope that Wagner’s music, along with his views, would be forgotten. But, his influence on music is so dramatic that Wagner’s concepts are used by many composers since he published and preformed.
Wagner’s music can’t be disassociated from one of history’s most inhumane periods. His music was played in nearly every corner of Germany society all while millions of people were killed in the most horrific way. Most of those that died were Jews, but so did millions of other people. The desire to banish his music because of the ugly memories is understandable. Who would want to be reminded of that period in our history?
If we refuse to play Wagner because of his vile cultural views and its association with the Nazis, we then elevate Wagner and his music to cult status in the underground world of racial hated. The only people that will play his music will be those that use it to gain support for their cause. The truth is, if we look deep into the views of every artist, we are sure to find something that we disagree with. Should we stop playing them also?
Openly presenting Wagner’s beautiful music can be a source of enjoyment for many people. But, it should be done with a clear understanding of the composer’s personal views. With open discussion about Wagner’s music, his life and his philosophy, we can use art to instruct not to destroy. It will balance those that would like to glorify Wagner’s and Hitler’s depraved views.
Many people have worked hard to help all of us remember the terror that existed during World War II. Their purpose is to hang in the open the events leading up to Hitler’s reign and its result on the world. By understanding the past in this way we can be on guard to prevent the past from becoming the future.
Playing Wagner’s music coupled with open discussion of his view points is just one way of keeping the evils of history fresh in the public memory.