Sunday, February 20, 2011

When is an Orchestra More than an Orchestra?

After having given the matter much consideration, I feel it important to give a shout-out in favor of Joshua Kosman for his article about the Vienna Philharmonic (“Top orchestra must answer for exclusion”), which appeared in print in the Sunday Datebook section of today’s San Francisco Chronicle.  When you have performers like Daniel Barenboim doing so much to try to heal antagonisms by building cultural divides through the simple idea of people with opposing thoughts coming together to make music, even the strongest opponent of cultural relativism is likely to have a hard time apologizing for the overt racism and sexism of the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra.  All that, of course, does not even account for their controversial performance of Ludwig van Beethoven’s ninth symphony at the Mauthausen concentration camp, which was so warped by anti-Semitic connotations that Elie Wiesel felt obliged to withdraw his support for the event.  (This was all nicely documented by Paul M. Ellison in the Summer 2000 issue of The Beethoven Journal, published by the American Beethoven Society at San Jose State University.)  Now that Kosman has posed the question, it will be interesting to see whether or not Dr. Clemens Hellsberg, Vienna Philharmonic historian, will address it in the Artist Talk he is scheduled to give at Berkeley at 6:30 PM on February 25.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Bravo! Thank heavens someone in the Bay Area has the good sense to speak in favor of Mr. Kosman. His VPO article was right on target. I have never seen so many uninformed, ignorant opinions about professional orchs. in my life as those expressed in the comments following his article. Thank you for speaking the truth here.