4.2 Wagner and the Nazis
One composer who might be thought of as deeply implicated in politics is Richard Wagner (1813-1883). Indeed, I imagine many of you might have named Wagner if asked to think of a composer of Western art music whose music, writings, and reputation are somehow bound up with politics. His popular image is forever tarnished by his antisemitic writings and his attractiveness to Adolf Hitler and German nationalists as a cultural icon—such that many Israeli musicians refuse to perform his music. Yet, at the same time, his music is deeply admired by many who would simultaneously disavow his beliefs and the uses to which his music has been put.
The literature on Wagner is enormous, but to get a sense of the controversy that still surrounds Wagner’s music, read thisby Lili Eylon on the pages of the Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs (the ‘official’ nature of the website is perhaps an indication that consideration of the question is one that carries contemporary political relevance).