Concert Reviews

Letter to NPR's Performance Today
March 7, 2002


To Performance Today:

          On your March 7 segment on Daniel Barenboim, Jews, and the music of Wagner, you indicated that there exists an "unofficial boycott" of the German master's music because it reminds older Jews of the agonies of the Holocaust in World War II.
          I am neither Jewish nor Israeli, but clearly this isn't the most important reason for their ban on Wagner (official or otherwise).
          Of far more import is Wagner's virulent anti-Semitism that pervaded his writings, his philosophy, and even (some experts suggest) his music. In essays such as Judaism in Music, he revealed himself as believing not only in the cultural and racial inferiority of the Jews, but that their destiny should lie in the "Redemption of Destruction." Wagner's own great-grandson has written that his ancestor's racism flowed strongly into his music.
          It would be rather like our hearing NPR play Bin Laden's "Twin Towers Concerto" or Saddam Hussein's "Great Satan Symphony" -- except that the Jews as a people have had to endure multiple centuries of the kind of hatred, persecution, and violence (verbal and physical) from the likes of Wagner that we in America have only recently begun to deal with.
          It isn't just the older Israelis with memories of Hitler who have banned Wagner -- it is a cross-section from all age groups. Even if it is not a boycott all would join, who can blame them?

Dr. Grover B. Proctor, Jr.
Dean, Northwood University
Executive Director, Alden B. Dow Creativity Center

P.S. You might want to consult Yale University Press' volume Wagner: Race and Revolution by Paul L. Rose for an excellent discussion of the problem of Wagner's anti-Semitism.
          Or you might just let Wagner's own words speak for themselves, in a translation of his essay Judaism in Music, found on the web at

     Dr. Grover B. Proctor, Jr., a university Dean in Michigan, currently writes music reviews for The Saginaw News. For the last 25 years, his music criticism has appeared in local, regional, and national publications.
     Proctor founded and for many years conducted a madrigal ensemble called The Campion Consort, and he has had many years' experience in arts and artist management.
     He is Executive Director of the Alden B. Dow Creativity Center and Northwood University's National Arts Programs.
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