Two responses in German media to the election of Kirill Petrenko as chief conductor of the Berlin Philharmonic have been decidedly hostile, verging on racist.
Sabine Lange on NDR Kultur drew an unfavourable comparison between the rejected candidate Christian Thielemann, ‘a world acclaimed expert in the German sound’, and the Russian-born Petrenko, ‘ the tiny gnome, the Jewish caricature of Alberich’ who threatens to seize power.
If that’s not bad enough, Manuel Brug in Die Welt points out that three leading conductors in Berlin are now Jews – Barenboim and Ivan Fischer are the others. Unhelpful and unnecessary, the more so since the three are so different in almost every aspect of character.
Both are castigated by the magisterial Eleanora Brüning in the Faz for disseminating racist clickbait, but the damage has been done. Lange on NDR has appended a semi-apology to her post, saying she was using Wagnerian rather than racist imagery when comparing Petrenko to Alberich. She misses the point entirely.
Two German publications find fault with Kirill Pentreko being a Jew, one of them likening him to an offensive character. This is, as Ms Büning rightly says, unacceptable conduct. Lange and Brug should be ashamed.
UPDATE: In a page 3 feature for the JC today, I noted that Petrenko’s origins counted for nothing these days in an enlightened, multicultural Berlin. Specifically: Among the precedents that tumbled when Kirill Petrenko was elected chief conductor of the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra this week, the Jewish element was the least remarked upon.
It now seems that outside Berlin the enlightenment has been slow to dawn.
Read the JC article here.