Skip to comments.Historian Probes Conductor Von Karajan's Nazi Past
Posted on 12/16/2012 3:44:58 PM PST by Eleutheria5
Austrian conductor Herbert von Karajan, a major figure in 20th-century classical music, was a more adamant Nazi supporter than previously believed, according to a historian who has unearthed previously unseen documents.
"It is time to probe scientifically the claims that Karajan constructed and cobbled together... and which in the end he really believed himself," said Oliver Rathkolb from Vienna University, according to AFP.
Presenting his findings at a seminar on Friday, Rathkolb cited anti-Semitic comments from letters written by Karajan (1908-1989) in his youth and said that at school the legendary maestro had belonged to an ultra-nationalist, pan-German youth group in Salzburg.
Rathkolb also questioned Karajan's claims after World War II that he only joined the Nazi party in order to be able to pursue his musical career, citing his application to join in April 1933, five years before the annexation of Austria by Nazi Germany.
(Excerpt) Read more at israelnationalnews.com ...
Karajan’s Heidegger moment, perhaps.....I sure hope not, though.
Eyew....His renditions of Beethoven’s Symphonies were among my favorites, but now my enjoyment of them has been sullied.
Listen to them with your boots off.
I agree entirely on his Beethoven interpretations. They are for me, definitive. Karajan introduced me to Bruckner, as well, and for me, Karajan’s Bruckner is also definitive.
(Not to imply that I am more knowledgeable than I am...I’m just saying, “I like what I hear” and everytime I say that, it seems like Karajan is at the podium...)
Why? What has his conductorship have to do with his political ideology?
Feeeeeeeeeeelings is what often gets us into trouble.
Genius, whether communist or fascist or whatever, is still genius.
Beethoven wrote the Eroica for Napoleon, and Shostakovich’s 5th is dedicated to the Russian communist revolution of 1917. Both are beautiful.
Art, especially music and poetry, are about feelings. Music without feeling is just mathematically measurable noise. So why do people with such venal feelings as Wagner and Von Karajan become great musicians? Why were the two greatest influences on modern poetry, Pound and Eliot, fascist sympathizers? It makes one wonder about the validity of art. Is it just some pagan venting of feeling?
Of course Field Marshall Radetzky is politically incorrect anyway, since he won victories for the Habsburgs over the Italian revolutionaries in 1848.
Just as we at FR get unhappy when artist like Speilberg endorse obama, it makes me unhappy when artists like Von Karajan endorsed hitler.
Artistic Genius does not guarantee political or even moral rectitude.
My Motorcycle Boots?
Especially the 6th.
Not being an English Lit major mind you but just my two cents of what I remember from my high school days, most of what these three wrote was crap. Pound most especially. Yeah, Mencken was a social critic but the love of fascism for failed artists(Hitler considered himself one) and writers who suck otherwise is that as long as they glorify the fascist leader, they’re a success and no one can criticize them in a fascist system.
With regard to truly creative artists, if I didn’t separate their work from their personalities, politics, whatever, I’ve have a small palette. Heck, Brecht angered Hitler and was close to being arrested when he escaped Germany but, on the other hand, he was a committed Marxist and returned to East Germany after the war.
As for actors and the like, they are pretty low on my list as far as talent goes and I have a hard time separating their talent from their personal life and beliefs.
He’s been dead for 23 years or so. Time to move on.
When he conducted the Horst Wessel Song in occupied Paris, that sealed my opinion of him.
You can’t judge the Thirties by what happened during the Forties. Let’s instead judge our own Communist sympathizers AFTER the horrors during the Thirties.
Thanks for the ping!
Classical Music Ping List ping.
If you'd like on or off this list, let me know via FR e-mail.
Thanks for the ping!
Classical Music Ping List ping.
If you'd like on or off this list, let me know via FR e-mail.
So, what happened in the Thirties? Let’s see: increasing oppression of everyone as Hitler consolidated power, purged the SA, burnt the Reichstag to get emergency powers, enacted anti-Jewish laws, killed and persecuted opponents and former friends, used mob violence and “nacht und nibbel” to do so. So let’s suppose there was no way of knowing back in 1933 that Hitler was going to go for world conquest and genocide of all untermenschen. What happened in the thirties was enough to scare any decent-minded person in Austria from applying for membership in the Nazi party, whose stated goal was to swallow up Austria. Herr Von Trapp of Saltzberg was outspoken in his distaste for Nazism. Von Karajan of Saltzberg applied for membership in the party. Judge the ‘30s by what happened in the ‘30s. I’m beginning to suspect that artistry is something perverse. It makes beautiful music come from ugly people.
Did he really do that? Wow.
He did because he rightly thought Napoleon was going to save France from the Terror. But after seeing Napoleon's imperialist actions, he scratched out the dedication and replaced it with "to a once great man." He came to hate Napoleon.
T.S. Eliot and Mencken certainly produced a large amount of first rate work under any standard. Pound was more valuable as a critic and sounding board to other artists.
Beethoven wrote his third symphony in 1803. By that time the Terror had been over for almost a decade and Napoleon was well on his way to waging war against most of Europe. It’s only when he declared himself Emperor in 1804 that Beethoven drew the line. By that time the symphony was already finished and was merely re-titled Eroica (the original title was Bonaparte).
His music will live for the ages. Pete Seeger is little more than an old crackpot with a banjo. Jane Fonda is a washed out bimbo starlet with a history of dabbling in treason and politics. Von Karajan is the more difficult of the three, because he created quality, brilliant music, and in his youth idolized the likes of Hitler and Goebels and wanted his country, Austria to be absorbed in “greater Germany”. He’s that telegraph boy from the Sound of Music, only he went on to greatness. This disturbs the hell out of me. I’ve read Eliot and Pound, and although they were well worth the reading, I can take them or leave them. Their poetry requires study and is not for everyone. But the biggest idiot that was ever born can listen to Von Karajan’s rendition Beethoven and be utterly awed by it. And he was a goose-stepping fascist pig. Doesn’t that bother you? It does me.
For what it’s worth HVK seemed to have shed any Nazi beliefs he had held. He worked with Jewish musicians all the time.
Sure. And he also prevaricated to cover up the depth of his commitment, saying he was merely an ambitious young musician, trying to get ahead. And maybe he was not for all the genocide and stuff, just primarily a pan-Germanist, just like Pound only wanted the banks nationalized. My problem isn’t with Von Karajan as a person, but as an artist.
One would think that a creator of profound, undeniable beauty is expressing his own internal beauty. But there was nothing beautiful about his soul. The ugliness was somehow compartmentalized, and kept out of the music. After the Third Reich fell, perhaps genuinely contrite, and perhaps faked because he was an ambitious young musician trying to get ahead, he renounced Nazism and made nice with some Jews. But which motivation prompted this? I can’t know his soul. It wasn’t expressed in his music.
Well said. It bothers me as well. It’s very difficult for me to separate an artist from his politics, particularly when his politics involve genocide.
Actually more than one critic has stated that his conducting style is the sonic equivalent of Leni Riefenstahl films. A lush, all-pervading ‘beauty’, an all-purpose, highly refined, lacquered, calculatedly voluptuous sound with all tensions ironed out which was applied the same way to all composers regardless of idiom.
I have a discussion with myself similar to the one on this thread when I listen to the music of Richard Strauss. It is difficult to listen to his exquisite Three Last Songs while realizing he was something like the composer laureate of the Third Reich.
R. Strauss didn’t care about the Nazis at all. He tolerated them because they left him alone to compose. He also worked with a Jewish librettist in defiance of their protocol.
Pound, sure, and for decades afterwards. Eliot's sympathies were more with "right wing" intellectual movements than with actual fascist regimes.
Mencken was somewhat similar -- though less of a highbrow. He had contempt for the workings of democracy, but I don't think he was any more attracted to actual tyrannical regimes.
Nobody had a crystal ball and could see where things would end up, though. Mussolini, say, didn't become the "Mussolini" we've come to know and hate until after he'd been in power for some time. There were a lot of difficult decisions to make back then between alternatives that were both bad.
If you remember the Cold War years, the kind of bad and difficult choices we faced the interwar years weren't entirely different, though the alternatives were cruder and the naivete greater in the Twenties and Thirties than in the postwar years.
Although the date is always given as 1803, it was not completed, evidently, until 1804.
Somewhat OT, our symphony conductor in one of his pre-symphony sessions said that he believed this was his favorite. I was astonished at that assertion, considering the others, but the older I get, the more I am coming around to that thinking.
1966. After their performance, they probably got into their cars to go home and heard The Beatles come over the car stereo. "What kind of hippy-dippy crap is that" they probably muttered under their breath as they steered their cars into the traffic-jammed caverns of Manhattan.
Many of them probably saw "Bewitched" on TV that night and harbored at least a little crush for Elizabeth Montgomery (hell, even today I wish I had a wife like Elizabeth Montgomery) while they sipped their gin and tonics.
I bet nobody in the orchestra that day (all men!) ever imagined that their performance that day would be available on demand for slobs like me on laptop computers and hand-held tablets where we would be able to comment upon their performance and even poke a little fun at them from their 21st Century wired-to-the-max homes.
Pound was also a big hit with Mussolini.
Dang, now THIS is the Free Republic I remember from years past. What a discussion! Thanks to all the contributors.
Mussolini was actually very cultured.
You are quite right.
For me, I’ve really become focused only on these sorts of things.
In the short term, we’re pretty well screwed. Turn our attentions to the long term.
Everyone should check out the website The Imaginary Conservative. It is great.
He was an Italian, after all. ;-) It's only after we got to America that we became better known for our shooting skills and willingness to defy authority, which often meant Irish cops, than for our cultural heritage.
Part of the evil genius of fascism is its ability to appeal to the cultural icons of nationalism. Fascism in Spain, France, Hungary, and Latin America had differences in externals because different nations had different cultural traditions, but in each of those countries fascism shared the same essential characteristics of authoritarianism centered on a single leader, a strong military, and a heavy state role in the economy.
Freedom works. Fascism doesn't. But sometimes, as with Franco's Spain and several different Latin American regimes, it takes a while for people to figure that out.
Disclaimer: Opinions posted on Free Republic are those of the individual posters and do not necessarily represent the opinion of Free Republic or its management. All materials posted herein are protected by copyright law and the exemption for fair use of copyrighted works.