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Luis
11-13-2000, 11:26 AM
The other day I saw a TV program about the Nazi regime and the exploitation of different forms of art in terms of political propaganda. About classical music the program was obviously centered in Wagner, but some intriguing comments were made about Beethoven and his interpreters. Among them, well, Karajan’s participation on the National Socialist Party in Austria was remarked and also Kempff and Furtwängler were mentioned as having had an obliging attitude towards the regime and having made a career thanks of that.*

Now the questions are
Were in B’s music or political opinions some elements from which the NR could have made use of in terms of political propaganda? (i.e. German identity, German myths, political authoritarianism, militarism, messiahnism, etc.)
Which of these elements were adopted, adapted or completely distorted, etc.
Who of the mentioned or other interpreters had a really close attachment to the regime.
Other interesting points surrounding cl. music and nazism you would like to discuss.


* I’m pretty sure this wasn’t the case for Furtwängler, firstly because he had already had a “career” before the Nazis arrived, and on the other hand I’m not so sure about he being so cooperative with them. Here’s an anecdote narrated by Richard Wagner's granddaughter Friedelind (well, not the best source, I know…) who witnessed a meeting between Hitler and Furtwängler at her mother's Bayreuth home:
'I remember Hitler turning to Furtwängler and telling him that he would have to allow himself to be used by the party for propaganda purposes, and I remember Furtwängler refusing. Hitler got angry and told Furtwängler that in that case there would be a concentration camp ready for him. Furtwängler was silent for a moment and then said: 'In that case, Herr Reichschancellor, I will be in very good company.'

Peter
11-13-2000, 12:00 PM
Well I think the nazis must have had a problem with Beethoven - what to do with their greatest composer ? - he clearly couldn't be used in the way Wagner was as his ideals of freedom and love of humanity were hardly in accordance with their own creed.Remember Beethoven tearing up the title page of the Eroica after Napoleon declared himself Emperor - that was not an action likely to endear him to the fuerher. Nor can I imagine Hitler sitting comfortably with Fidelio and its themes of liberation, triumph over tyranny and love ! I also don't think Beethoven represents German nationalism either - his music is far more universal than that - so I suspect he was admired from a distance. I may be wrong here but I think it was at this time that rumours of Beethoven's possible black ancestry emerged - As he clearly was not a jew, perhaps someone was trying to 'discredit' him in the authorities eyes. This should also settle the 'black' debate as well because I'm sure had Beethoven had Black ancestors, the nazis would have discovered it and he would have suffered the same fate as Mendelssohn.

Richard Strauss was another composer who has been accused of nazi sympathies - Quite wrongly in my view - I think he was really rather politically naive. His librettist was Jewish and on one occasion at least he came into disfavour with the regime.

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'Man know thyself'

[This message has been edited by Peter (edited 11-13-2000).]

Luis
11-14-2000, 06:09 AM
Originally posted by Peter:
Well I think the nazis must have had a problem with Beethoven - what to do with their greatest composer ? - he clearly couldn't be used in the way Wagner was as his ideals of freedom and love of humanity were hardly in accordance with their own creed.Remember Beethoven tearing up the title page of the Eroica after Napoleon declared himself Emperor - that was not an action likely to endear him to the fuerher. Nor can I imagine Hitler sitting comfortably with Fidelio and its themes of liberation, triumph over tyranny and love ! I also don't think Beethoven represents German nationalism either - his music is far more universal than that - so I suspect he was admired from a distance. I may be wrong here but I think it was at this time that rumours of Beethoven's possible black ancestry emerged - As he clearly was not a jew, perhaps someone was trying to 'discredit' him in the authorities eyes. This should also settle the 'black' debate as well because I'm sure had Beethoven had Black ancestors, the nazis would have discovered it and he would have suffered the same fate as Mendelssohn.

Richard Strauss was another composer who has been accused of nazi sympathies - Quite wrongly in my view - I think he was really rather politically naive. His librettist was Jewish and on one occasion at least he came into disfavour with the regime.



(My English is terrible, you know)

I totally agree with all you’ve written. In fact, my interest on this matter wouldn’t had arisen but for the looseness with which the program assumed Beethoven’s music as it were directly linked with nazism and supposing that link obvious and without any necessarily explanation. After looking on the net for some connections between Nazism and B’s music I found nothing but brief comments about conductors, musicians of the period, and SO many and SO scaring fascist sites and essays. Anyway, I found this book “Beethoven in German Politics, 1870-1989” by David Dennis which some of you could find interesting. http://www.yale.edu/yup/books/063997.htm
I also found that B was Hitler favorite composer (what a tragedy!) after Wagner; that the Nazi party regularly placed wreaths on Beethoven's bust in the room where he was born; and that Furtwängler was H’s favorite conductor.

Luis