Karl Böhm is named a Nazi in Salzburg

Karl Böhm is named a Nazi in Salzburg

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norman lebrecht

December 28, 2015

The Salzburg Festival board has decided to affix a plaque to the Karl Böhm Saal, specifying that the conductor, while musically gifted, was an enthusiastic Nazi who used the inhumanities of the Hitler regime to advance his career. The plaque will be engraved in German and English.

‘He was a great artist but fatally flawed politically,’ said Festival president Helga Rabl-Stadler.

There is nothing new in that statement. Böhm was an outright Nazi who in 1938 told the Vienna Philharmonc that anyone who did not vote for Hitler’s Anschluss could not be considered a proper German.

Karl_Bohm_fidelio

However, the decision to out Böhm as a virulent Nazi leaves Salzburg with a major headache.

Will local hero Herbert von Karajan, who profited no less than Böhm, receive a plaque of his own?

Full ORF story here.

Comments

  • Marina Arshinova says:

    who need this now?

  • Olassus says:

    I wonder where the pressure came from. She only cares about money, so maybe this plaque has been demanded by one of her sponsors.

    My feeling is, either honor this great Mozartean (through the naming of the bar and snack area) or leave him unmentioned.

    • Dave T says:

      Better yet, name the toilet after him.

      Much more important to be a great human than a “great” Mozartean.

      • Olassus says:

        Obviously you never met him.

        I ask about the money because my village train station, which is home to 6 or 8 horses, staffed only for manual point-switching and in sore need of a paint, this year received a meter-wide bronze plaque auf Deutsch, Hebräische und English providing slightly screwed-up details of the conclusion of an April 1945 death march.

      • Maurice says:

        Yea? Please do tell how many of the great artists were such “great human beings”. On the contrary, Art is the only redeemable quality of this wretched, rotten species.

    • Holgar says:

      The fact that Karl Böhm was a devoted Nazi is no surprise nor news, as it has been floated around for years. What is even more shocking in this report is the statement by Helga Rabl-Stadler. Saying that, “He was a great artist but fatally flawed politically” is outrageous, as if being a Nazi was merely a political decision. He was fatally flawed humanly and that brings into question is musical understanding, beyond technical matters. It is not the first time that I have heard high-ranking Austrians dismissing Nazi supporters as having only made a wrong political decision. By following and supporting Nazi ideology a person shows a deeply sick, perverse and warped human character. Austrians wrap that all in devout Catholicism as well, making the entire place toxic, hypocritical and nauseating. Instead of affixing a plaque to a room named after him, telling that the room is named after a committed Nazi, the management of the Salzburg Festival should have de-Nazified the room, by removing its dedication to Karl Böhm. Will Austria ever face up to its revolting and disgusting past, instead of honouring those who were part of that, by telling that the person was a Nazi and then keeping the room named after them.

      • Hilary says:

        It’s saddening to note that these warped views were fairly commonplace back then, and not just in Nazi Germany. For example in the 1930s OUP published a so -called racial atlas of the world which expresses some atrocious views on black people. I doubt it caused much furore.

      • St Anthony says:

        Dear Holgar,

        The impulse to dehumanize people you have never met and denigrate vast swathes of people as “toxic and nauseating” is one of the key ingredients required for the kind of horrific acts perpetrated by the Nazis. I am an Austrian who is not at all toxic and only ever so slightly nauseating, and though I understand your general point, the reality is considerably more complicated than you suggest.

        And this complexity, I think, should be honoured. Similar conversations are going on in the States in regards to buildings named after famous slave owners (Princeton University renaming the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs) and there are strong arguments on both sides.

        The argument – the discussion – the public engagement with a complicated past – THIS is where the progress happens. Not in making the things you don’t like about your history disappear.

        • Mathieu says:

          Wilson was not a slave owner, just a plain racist. You must be confusing him with John Calhoun, who is honoured at Yale — there has also been calls to rename the Calhoun college there.

        • Bernard says:

          By saying that, “he was a great artist, but fatally flawed politically.”, if we follow that twisted “Austrian logic”, then I guess the medical community in Austria might say that Josef Mengele was, “a fine anthropologist and medical scholar, but fatally flawed politically.” They may very well say the same for Joseph Goebbels, branding him, “a great propagandist, public speaker and philosopher, but fatally flawed politically.” They already have said the same thing about their former President, Kurt Waldheim who, prior to being elected President by the Austrian people in 1986, was acknowledged to have been a Nazi officer in Greece, participating in unspeakable atrocities. That didn’t stop, nor deter, the Austrian people voting him into office immediately after those revelations were widely made known. There again, the Austrians said that he was “still a great man, in spite of any political mistakes made in his past.” Austria must wake up from its stupor and start confronting the acceptance of a pernicious evil that permeates so deeply into their national character for far too long.

          • Daniel F. says:

            Or try “Stalin, a superb administrator, but flawed politically”.

          • Peter says:

            While on first thought I do not disagree with you, on second thought, trying to look from the other side:

            Can you give us a list of really great artists, the greatest of the great, who’s humanity and morals are in any aspect, personal and professional, equally impeccable and far above the common people’s median level than their artistic capabilities?

            I don’t know any, and I do know a lot personally. There are a few very good people among them, but not as outstanding for it as for their artistic excellence.

            And “a pernicious evil that permeates so deeply into their national character”, really?
            That’s your Nazi terminology right there.
            Feel blessed that you don’t live in a country that was infected with a destructive political disease many decades ago, a disease that can be cought by any country if it doesn’t watch out.

      • Tom Hagen says:

        With all due respect ‘Holgar’, you are entirely mistaken and I presume this is due to a lack of understanding on your part about what National Socialism was and how it was perceived within Germany/Austria in the 1930s. Within the context of the time, one was not necessarily ‘fatally flawed humanly’ to support the NSDAP. Consider the following:

        – Anti-Semitism was widespread in Western Europe and had been so since Christ. Although the party certainly breached the line of immorality on the issue in its platform and rhetoric early on, it never crossed the minds of contemporary Germans that Hitler would be willing to murder let alone try to systematically eradicate Jewry (the Holocaust was not a pre-ordained path but came about in the context of an increasingly difficult war and Hitler’s growing hubris). At the same time, blacks were treated like second class citizens in the American South and similar anti-Semitic attitudes were prevalent (if not voiced as freely) amongst the political establishment in many European nations.
        – Presenting himself as an artist-politician, Hitler wanted to a nation predicated upon high culture and in so doing cultivated an image as a new type of leader who would not risk another world war. He did possess a deep understanding and knowledge of many facets of Western European art, and he was genuine in his desire to use the State as a vehicle to elevate German art and artists.
        – Hitler deliberately avoided spelling out clear policy goals and instead made National Socialism into an incredibly broad umbrella organization that could encompass almost all Germans ideologically. As such, one could see what one wanted to see both in him and in the Party.

        To crudely assume that the eminent Karl Bohm was a failed human because he voiced his support for National Socialism in 1938 is thus entirely unfounded. However, if Bohm offered similar support after the war, when it became apparent how far Hitler had been willing to go to act out on his hatred for Judaism and the degree to which Germany had been the sole aggressor in starting the war, you would have been correct.

        I would advise you – and the Austrian people as a whole – to gain a more comprehensive view of history before selectively allowing yourself to go back in time and denigrate fine human beings such as Bohm.

  • Hermann Lederer says:

    Not only Böhm. Not only Karajan.
    What is about Strauss AND ABOVE ALL (and probably the worst!!): The Vienna Philharmonic???????

    • Peter says:

      All their careers are quite distinct. Hold your easy armchair 2ct condemnations.
      Anybody who is only doing the talk and never had to do the walk (living in a totalitarian system and making ends meet) please humble your self-righteousness please.

      Strauss is known to have defended quite vehemently jewish artists for instance, which had quite severe consequences. Strauss’ relationship with the ‘Reich as one of mutual hate but consciousness to needing each other for pragmatic reasons.

      • Irena says:

        For instance, Strauss kept my mentor-Elena Nikolaidi- from grave consequences after Greece was invaded and she stood up to Nazi ridicule about it.

      • Andrew says:

        Always sickening Peter when someone like yourself tries to rationalize support for the Nazi regime or any other genocidal regime. Only makes you look stupid as a human being.

        • Ppellay says:

          And this kind of “good guys vs. bad guys” response makes you look like a Witchfinder General. The truth is never black-and-white, even when it comes to Nazi Germany – you didn’t have to live in it any more than anyone here.

          • Jeffrey E. Salzberg says:

            I’d love to see the argument that the Nazis *weren’t* “bad guys”.

          • Peter says:

            Jeffrey, that argument is quite easy. They were humans, like you and me. In hindsight it easy to condemn them. It’s a survival strategy of the human psyche, to put away emotionally distressing things as “evil”. Because that is the most convenient way to live.
            We all are saints and we all are nazis. All the time, potentially. Little things in life and our surroundings can change what makes it in us to the surface and into our conscious speech and deeds.

        • Hilary says:

          On the contrary, Peter is providing some of the most nuanced contributions to this debate.

        • Hilary says:

          On the contrary, Peter’s contributions to this discussion have been among the most thoughtful and informative.

        • Peter says:

          Andrew, what is wrong with “rationalizing” aka rational analysis of any phenomenon, including mass murderous ideologies? Nothing.
          Rationalizing is not synonymous with justifying.
          To the contrary.
          Rationalizing is essential to understand and to learn, so to avoid negative things in the future. On top of keeping your human empathy alive.

          But I can guess where you are coming from. Religious dogma has clouded the minds of too many people still. It is religious dogma that keeps man in a child like simplicity, to explain complex phenomena only by “good or evil” cartoonish dualities.
          That mental limitation keeps the people sufficiently unaware, how manipulation of the minds actually works. Which means they remain under mental control and are not free, mission accomplished.

  • Itsjtime says:

    To those who ask “why now?”
    In this age, a new age of information, we owe it to ourselves to research what is directly in front of us….at th very least.
    I am part/we are part of the last generation of human beings directly related to one of the great human tragedies of recorded history. To learn about why and who is a burdensome task. I believe it is a worthwhile task because there may be more to learn.
    I personally don’t feel a plaque for Bohm or Karjan is necessary but I understand the idea behind it. I have done my research because I care. Perhaps this plaque may inform others to do their own research and formulate a more broad view of the history of human suffering.

  • Peter says:

    You would have to back up your claim that “Karajan profited no less” because that is not what we know how both their carriers went.

    Böhm was a crook, jumped in on the opportunities that opened up due to upright and decent people having to leave Germany under the Nazi disease. E.g. succeeding the great Fritz Busch in Dresden, who had been shouted out of an opera performance by a violent SA mob in 1933. Böhm, after personal intervention of AH in favor of a premature breach of contract for release from his Hamburg engagement to take over Dresden. Böhm was never a member of the NSDAP, but an activist in the “Kampfbund für deutsche Kultur”, a cultural nationalist and supremacist. But not a single anti-semitic sentence is known by him, also remarkable. According to contemporary witnesses AH thought about him as only a 2nd grade conductor.

    Still Hitler personally initiated Böhms engagement at one of the most prestigious opera houses of the ‘Reich’, the Vienna Staatsoper. So Hitler promoted Böhms career repeatedly and personally, while Karajan was actually blocked by Hitler on several occasions, reportedly Hitler didn’t like Karan’s swift tempi and condemned them one more than one occasion as “un-german”.

    Karajan was a careerist, joined the Nazi party twice and would have done it many more times if necessary, as he stated himself repeatedly after the war “I would have sold my grandmother if necessary to get conducting gigs.” He was deep inside more an apolitical man, interested in his narcissistic self-realization and his music. Not an intellectual or cultural supremacist either, Karajan enjoyed nature and beauty, also he was a short man with a huge ego and charisma.
    Also of him we know no anti-semitic stains whatsoever.
    Most famously, Richard Strauss’s being fired after his defence of a Jewish librettist gave Peter Raabe a job, which in turn allowed von Karajan to take Raabe’s post at the Aachen opera. Eventually his name was included in Goebbels’ list of musicians ‘blessed by God’, just like Böhm. However, even he was not to remain immune from the Führer’s notoriously fickle affections. In 1939 von Karajan led a performance of Wagner’s Die Meistersinger that was a total failure, most say due to the circumstance that Hans Sachs screwed up several cues AND Karajan was so vane to actually conduct Meistersinger without a score, which backfired badly the moment the ensemble was in chaos due to a drunk Hans Sachs, so the story goes. Hitler, in the audience, only saw Karajan as the culprit, and took this as a personal affront and forbid Karajan conducting any future performance at Staatsoper in his presence. Hitler also blocked explicitly Karajan from conducting in Bayreuth, even though the Wagner clan was interested.
    Even more scandalously, von Karajan married Anita Gutermann, the heiress to a textile fortune who was “burdened” with a Jewish grandfather.

    So there are some notable differences in their Third reich careers. Thank God I’m glad I didn’t have to live in those days and to make tough decisions how to get along with the system, if I had been a professional who’s profession dependent to a great deal on getting jobs at German speaking opera houses.

    • Dirk Fischer says:

      Thank you for the insightful read!

    • Alexander Hall says:

      Peter, I too valued your contribution for the simple reason that I am tired of this excessive good guy-bad guy categorisation in the arts world. There are some people who will jump on any moral transgression or incautious remark and insist that this is evidence of “a thoroughly bad human being”. Let’s face it: we are all imperfect, we are all a mixture of good and evil, some more in one direction than another, and we all make morally questionable decisions when our careers are at stake. If there is one wish I have for 2016, it is that we have fewer of these hate campaigns on this website (I would cite Eschenbach as an obvious example) and contributors display a little more human charity.

  • Has been says:

    In Princeton there is a movement to take President Woodrow Wilson’s name off the school named for him due to his segregationist views.
    In Luisiana there is a movement to take the statues of Jefferson Davis and other southern generals down.
    Karl Boehm conducted many memorable performances in Salzburg, Vienna and New York after the war in addition to his positions in Dresden and Munich.
    I wonder if the ‘political correctness’ sweeping the US and now Europe has any benefit and goes too far, especially as in many cases it smells of opportunism and sensationalism.

    • William Safford says:

      The label “political correctness” pretty much translates these days as “I don’t like being called out for my offensive viewpoints, so I’m going to attack you with the putative insult ‘political correctness’.”

      It’s interesting to juxtapose, say, tributes to Woodrow Wilson and Jefferson Davis.

      Woodrow Wilson was a racist and a segregationist. However, he also promoted many good ideas, including the League of Nations.

      Jefferson Davis was not only an unrepentant racist and a segregationist, but he was also a slaveowner, a seditionist, and a traitor. Why he should be honored in any way, and why any statue of him should exist anywhere outside of a museum, is a mystery to me. I am all for defrocking him.

      I’ll leave discussion of Bohm to those who know more than I do. But I shall observe a general thought that possessing and developing musical talent and possessing innate qualities of good (or bad) character are not necessarily related. One can be an excellent musician and an upstanding person, or an excellent musician and a contemptible person, etc.

      • Barry says:

        “The label “political correctness” pretty much translates these days as “I don’t like being called out for my offensive viewpoints, so I’m going to attack you with the putative insult ‘political correctness’.”

        That’s both an over-simplification and just wrong. What “political correctness” means to many, some who have found out the hard way with real-life consequences, is that there is only one acceptable position to give in a public setting on any number of issues that should be open to free debate.

  • Peter says:

    What about Henry Ford? Much worse, without any pressure as a citizen of a free country, still a volunteer in his huge Nazi support. The worst actually.

    • Milka says:

      Which brings us to mother Russia Stalin and Ribbentrop, beyond the worst …..

    • Greg Hlatky says:

      He also signed an agreement with the Soviet Union in 1929 to build the first automobile plant in Gorky. Quite a few of the technical consultants he sent to assist just vaniseed there. Will you condemn him for that too?

      • Eddie Mars says:

        Greg Clacky and Milker – our resident off-topic spam trolls.

        # never post on topic
        # never post about classical music
        # never reply to legitimate posts
        # only post anti-Russian fact-free hatred
        # only post flame-filled troublemaking abuse

        Time these two troublemakers were permanently excluded, for persistent breach of posting rulew

        • Greg Hlatky says:

          Progressives: trying to shut people up since 1917.

          If my comments appear to be off topic or not about classical music, they are only prompted by comments which are off topic or not about classical music. I did not know there was some exam I had to take before commenting here. I may not have studied at Curtis or Indiana or had a conversation with Jimmy or Lenny, even in a reception line, to plume before the other status-seeking butt-sniffers hereabouts, but I attended a duly-accredited institution of higher learning.

          As a member of the non-musician public, I don’t comment on classical music as such because I am aware of my limited detailed knowledge on the topic. Sheer ignorance, however, doesn’t seem to prevent artistes from tendering their worthless opinions. Slipped Disc’s version of Ted Baxter regularly accuses me of being a Fox News viewer, which I’m not. Pretty funny considering most of the cartoonish sociopolitical comments here seem to be derived from Facebook memes, Colbert-Stewart-Maher type clowns and RT.

          As for “flame-filled troublemaking abuse,” that’s just another shut-up-he-explained ploy, projection pure and simple. In any case, I once read that in Russia (and, as we see, with a fanboi like “Eddie Mars”), discussions start with “motherfucker” and go from there. “Fact-free hatred”? Read the comments here long enough and you’d think the United States was responsible for everything from corked wine to the Permian-Triassic extinction event. Anti-Americanism: the socialism of imbeciles.

          Well, if it’s a musical topic “Eddie Mars” wants, I will use two names that have graced this site in the not-too-distant past. Henze dedicated Das Floß der Medusa to a homicidal maniac. Pete Seeger was a Stalinist most of his unfortunately long life, though in his dotage he mumbled some Stalin-may-have-gone-a-little-far pap. Both died loaded down with honors from the nations they worked to destroy.

          So, apropos to the topic at hand, neither one was compelled, like Shostakovich was, to become Communists. Böhm and Karajan were careerists willing to use the Nazi regime to advance themselves but no one seriously argues that either was a true believer. Henze and Seeger became Communists of their own free will and were committed to its murderous philosophy most of their lives. The great moral question of the 20th century and both were dead wrong. When will we put up plaques condemning them?

          • Anon says:

            You are wrong (usually always, here in particular) that the philosophy of communism is murderous. Contrary to the Nazi philosophy, which had the murderous philosophy all written out.
            The problem with communism is its implementation in reality, which until today never happened actually, maybe closest realized on a small community scale by a few Kibbuzim in Israel.
            That what the world was told as to be the real world implementation of communism, was not communism, but just another form of totalitarism, using communist philosophy (and only the bits of it that fit the totalitarian agenda) as ideological justification to expropriate the ruling class in a revolution.
            Anyway, semantics aside, both real world implications were mass murderous, but Nazi philosophy is murderous, Communist philosophy is not.
            That makes a decisive difference, when it comes to the individual support of these ideologies, BEFORE the shit of mass murder hit the fan. Support of the Nazis before WWII? You knew roughly what was planned to be coming.

          • Eddie Mars says:

            I scanned the illiterate trash you scrawled for a mention of Karl Bohm, Clacky – and unsurprisingly, didn’t find the Thread Topic anywhere in the stream of abuse and cognitive dissonance you’ve posted.

            Your vile rudeness in attempting to derail this discussion with a pile of crapola isn’t appreciated, Clacky.

            As I said – it’s time that TROLLS like you are BOOTED OFF these boards. You’ve been kicked off everywhere else on the Net, and there’s no reason this community should tolerate your pukesome behaviour any further.

          • Furzwängler says:

            “…in Russia discussions start with “motherfucker” and go from there”

            Good post, thank you.

            And you’re right that in Russia most serious discussions begin with yop tvoyu mat’ or blyad or sukha or some other choice expletive.

            And – completely totally and utterly off-topically, is that a picture of a Borzoi? Wonderfully aristocratic dogs, have had three of them in my younger years.

  • Fernando says:

    Great conductor! I wish we had a Karl Bohm Hall here in Brazil. Without plaques, of course. I think I’ll hang his venerable portrait at home as an act of retaliation to this stupid Austrian idea.

  • Paolo V. Montanari says:

    If one could read which means every single famous man or woman used to advance their career, plaques would be far more instructive and entertaining to read.

  • Hilary says:

    Not to be confused with his hugely talented son, of the same name.
    Interesting to note a turbulent relationship with his parents:
    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/obituaries/10865492/Karlheinz-Bohm-obituary.html
    Peter’s long post is the relevant response to this headline about his conductor father.
    I like Bernstein’s little tribute piece to his friend Karl Bohm,and the effusive correspondence which can be read in the Bernstein letters.

  • Medea Jason says:

    Met audiences were surely not ignorant of Karl Bohm’s activities during WWII, yet they cheered his every entrance into the pit. When Bohm came out to conduct Act III of Frau ohne Schatten, the house went “nuts”. now why was that, I wonder? Were they willing to “forgive and forget”, because he made great music, or did they just not care anymore? I do not pretend to know the answer, I cheered along with everyone else, was I “guilty”, of what, were we all? We should worry more about what is going on around us today, and let the past “rest in peace”.

  • Pedro says:

    At the time of his death, in August 1981, KB was President of the LSO and the only Austria Generalmuskdirektor ( Karajan never got the title). Since the end of the war he extensively conducted in the USA, Canada, Japan and the main democratic countries of Europe and South America. How was such a Nazi allowed to do that? He only apparent reason for that is that he was an extraordinary musician. I only attended a handful of his opera and concert performances in Salzburg, including his last appearances there in an unsurpassable Ariadne auf Naxos and his last concert in the Festival – a Mozart programme which included Symphonies 29 and 35 and Piano Concerto nr 19 with Pollini which was wonderful and has recently been issue by Orfeo.

  • Hilary says:

    A warm embrace from Bernstein, and a tribute speech to Karl Bohm from Karajan. Of the latter, this ultimately tells us more about Karajan than Bohm but is interesting nonetheless: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JfGL2GI7xzY

  • Tom says:

    This must have made your day.

  • Mark Henriksen says:

    I understand that the uncertainty principle had Heisenberg’s name removed because he profited professionally during Hitlers rein of terror.

    Not true. The point being that Bohm’s skill at producing great music is separate from his roll in the Nazi party. Opportunities may have come from that role. Nevertheless, his body of work and its value stands apart, as with the first Heisenberg, to be judged on its own merits.

  • Daniel F. says:

    SO many years after the fact, it amounts to no more than self-righteous twaddle, a little like the Catholic Church’s reinstatement of Galileo. Where does one draw the lines? Was Mravinsky “flawed politically”?

  • wiener says:

    Bitte jetzt noch alle Böhm Schallplatten vor dem Festspielhaus verbrennen.

    • Anon says:

      Besser Ostern, wenn dort das Licht an ist und die Kameras laufen. Thielemann gleich mit? Oder erst nur den Scheiterhaufen zeigen?

      • Max Grimm says:

        Lieber nicht, sonst würden einige Herrn Thielemann und die verbliebene Familie Böhms wohl möglich wegen passiver Mitwirkung an einer gesetzeswidrigen Freilassung schädlicher Dämpfe und mehrerer Verstöße gegen Auflagen der Umweltschutzgesetze belangen wollen.

  • Dave says:

    This must be this week’s classical Nazi post. Last week Schwarzkopf now Bohm. Who is next on the list?

    • Anon says:

      Probably Thielemann, he will stick his head out in tomorrow’s New Years concert broadcast from Dresden.
      But the clever bastard is having an Asian soloist and conducts American and Jewish composers. DAMN!!!
      That’s going to be a tough one. Maybe brown shoelaces will give him away. We will watch extra carefully. I’m color calibrating my TV right now.

    • Sanford Press says:

      The great Lubin

  • debussyste says:

    Karajan, Furtwangler, Böhm, Schwarzkopf ect …. The only ones who weren’t Nazi were the jew ones ! It’s very depressing !

    • Dave says:

      I don’t believe Furtwangler was a Nazi, he just conducted for them.

      • Hilary says:

        Some would argue that he should’ve left Germany. Easier said than done, and the people making those judgements may well have not done the same in his shoes.

    • Anon says:

      It’s not incorrect, to label members of the NSDAP like HvK and ES as Nazis. In reality of course it is much more complex, the delicate distortions between outer world and inner immigration can be manifold. To me the deeds of a person matter most, their actually applied morals, their possible active or passive involvement in crimes against humanity, not some paperwork that in totalitarian regimes can mean many things.

    • John Borstlap says:

      No, there has been a German poet who was neither a nazi nor a jew, because nobody could find-out: ‘Ich bin immer so froh, weiter bin ich nichts!’*

      * Aus dem Briefwechsel eines völlig unbekannten Schäbischen Schriftstellers.

  • Peter says:

    To give this issue some well deserved constructive spin:

    What are your ideas, why the wider music interested public suffers from the misconception, that outstanding artist are also outstanding, almost god like, human beings in general and have to comply to higher moral standards than us mortal commoners?

    Because in reality the price for exceptional artistic talent is often a deficit in other areas of the mind. Neurosis and mental disorder is more pronounced in artists in average.

    I believe we are disaspointed, if our projection of greatness is not mirrored back in reality, which is our own fault, a distorted expectation, not theirs. Artists have to bear the role of our idealized self.

    When in reality they are just trying to do what they know best, and be succesful, whatever it takes in a certain professional foeld, just like anyone else.

    • John Borstlap says:

      Since the best of musical high art embodies humanist – and also often spiritual – values, and symbolize highly developed human aspirations in terms of ethics and morality, the pressures on highly gifted musicians to BE what their work blindly requires, are high as well. Some can live up to those requirements, mostly at the cost of the opportunities that this art ALSO requires, and then choices have to be made which can be painful. All this in a free, relatively safe Western world. In a dangerous, chaotic, violent totalitarian society, some artists escape, sacrifying career chances for the sake of their soul, if they can, others give-up their humanity – or put them in the cupboard for the time being – hoping for the best and playing-along in a theatre of conformity to save the very thing they live for: performing. This latter choice is, like the other one, driven by existential terror. In this way, the artists who decide to play along, betray the very art they want to serve in an act of saving the art on the expense of their humanity. It is a devilish, warped situation to be in and I think we just have to be pleased that at least, the best element of their life has survived.

      • Peter says:

        Thank you, made me think. I think in the western world, the single biggest threat to artistic integrity is money. As soon as top artists and their agents find out they can command huge sums, their freedom to develop – themselves AND their collaborating environments – artistically rather than based on max revenue diminish greatly. There is an increasing gap between art and “circuses” in the classical music business. It is not going into a creative direction, and it is attracting more and more the wrong people, the wealthy people who are looking for affirmative high class entertainment with a touch of intellectual superiority, not for emotionally stimulating and though provoking art.

        The business at the cross road to cater to audiences who are seeking artistic challenges and inspiration, and on the other side audiences who like to enjoy a top music circus with a glass of champaign in the intermission, the latter is usually chosen, simply because their purses are much bigger.

        • John Borstlap says:

          A lot of truth in all that. But not everywhere and everybody. There are orchestras / conductors who genuinely aspire to artistic goals. Generalizations are dangerous when the classical performance culture is concerned.

  • John Humphreys says:

    Life is short – no time to read through this entire debate so I might merely be repeating what has already been said. As I understand it Bohm is being honoured with a plaque because he was a great Mozartian – not because he was a ‘politically flawed’ guy – correct, or have I got it wrong? It’s been known a long time (especially by the musicians who played under his baton) that he was a committed Nazi – many musicians, writers, poets and painters were, with poor bumbling Furtwangler rather uncertain what to do about anything with regard to his political masters. We are in dangerous territory – Alfred Cortot, arguably the most revered Chopin player in history had a very dodgy history when it came to collaboration…the list could go on. Honour them for what they did for their ‘art’ and leave the rest to history. TS Eliot maintained that “the more perfect the artist, the more completely separate in him will be the man who suffers and the mind which creates”. (We have this ludicrous debate taking place in the UK about whether the statue of Cecil Rhodes should be removed from outside Oriel College, Oxford….21st century iconoclasm on the march).

  • Thomas says:

    I was fortunate to have grown up watching Bohm conduct at the Met. The orchestra’s nickname for him was ”The U-Boat Captain”. During a Salome dress rehearsal the tricky ensemble of the Jews fell apart. A livid Bohm screamed for the singers in that scene to come rehearse it once the dress was finished. He kept repeating ” Immer die Juden! ” When he asked ” Wo sind die Juden?”a brass player yelled “Try the lampshade department.” The orchestra laughed seeing Bohm’s discomfort. When he was in San Francisco for ‘Die Frau ohne Schatten’ he was annoyed at having to attend a luncheon for donors to the SF Opera. When asked by Kurt Adler to say a few words he rose and said in German “We didnt exterminate the Jews but at least we tried”, his attempt at humor. He asked a petrified assistant to translate but the guy would not do it. Colorful man in an awful way, but some really great and unforgettable performances.

  • Joseph Ciolino says:

    How foolish. almost childish.

    Who, at the time, did NOT praise Hitler, or the Nazi’s??? You’re going to have to put a plaque next to just about EVERYONE’S name.

    Winston Churchill: “Were England to suffer national disaster should pray to God to send a man of the strength of mind and will of an Adolf Hitler!”

    The pope signed a Concordat with him.

    How about France? In a famous editorial: “Better to kill a hundred Jews than to spill one drop of French blood.” The Russians? They signed a nice treaty with him, praising him. Vichy? Please!

    All the myriad American industrialists and corporations who sought to make profit by him, including a member of the Bush family,

    The list goes on and on… and it is too easy to find scapegoats.

  • Cadogan west says:

    Folks you have missed an important point Bruno Walter (a Jew) was instrumental in helping Karl Bohm in his career eg conductorship Munich Bohm and Walter kept up correspondence even during the war!

  • Ivan Walls says:

    WHO CARES???
    Imagine that you have a good father, a “great human being, very high moral behavior”, who cares for you and for you mother… BUT HE WILL STAY UNKNOWN FOR THE REST OF THE WORLD PROBABLY THE MOST OF HIS LIFE.
    Is important for you who are his son/daughter, but not for me, because i will not know him never ever in my whole life.

    Imagine that your father was A REALLY BAD PERSON, BRUTALLY BEAT YOU EVERY NIGHT, but in his artistic life, he built an spectacular building for artistisc purposes.
    HE IS A GREAT ARTIST, AND IS WORTHY TO BE REMEMBERED AS A GREAT ARTIST!
    MUCH MORE IF THAT BUILDING WAS THE ONLY GOOD THING THAT HE HAS DONE IN HIS WHOLE LIFE!
    Could be you have bad memories of him, of an historical age, of a dark stain in human history…. but, we have from Karl Bohm his musical legacy of Mozart and Wagner interpretations. Despite his political inclination, or his behavior; his artistic legacy will remind us forever that God gave good gifts to men, despite they (or we) do “stranger things” in our lifes.

  • Andrew Matthews says:

    Frankly I have had a basinful of all this nazi nonsense. I just wish Lebrecht et al. would all stop whining and complaining about it. Germany in 1933-39 was a place very different from today. If you needed a job basically you joined the party. Richard Osborne put the Karajan issue to bed by printing and examining the relevant primary source documents, but of course now all the ignorant self righteous lot go on and on about karajan when in fact they regularly get their facts wrong. Let me leave you with this thought. There has been an argument doing the rounds that karajan joined the party twice, once in 1933 and then again when he got the job at Aachen in 1935. It was a condition of the job that he had to join the party. If he already was a member he would have said in response to the request “but I already am, here is my paid up membership card”. But he didn’t. He joined for the simple reason he was not already a member. He was hard up. Paying the fees would have registered with him. So let’s all forget this nonsense shall we and just get a life and be thankful he gave spiritual joy to millions of people and still does.

  • C L Clemo says:

    Yes well said but could we have now have a plaque dedicated to all of those musicians who to save their own skins abandoned Europe to live in comfort earning fat fees in such places as the USA and leaving it to others to spill their blood in the defeat of the German socialist menace.

    CLC Wimbledon

    • Jeffrey E. Salzberg says:

      I think we should commemorate people who squawk, “Socialist! Socialist!” when the Nazis were socialist in name only.

  • C L Clemo says:

    Not so they were socialist in substance to all but those who will not see; large industries directed to work for the government of the day, arbitrary exercise of power, restrictions on free speech and travel, no independent judiciary and persecution of those of whom the state disapproved and one could go on.

    C L C Wimbledon

    • Jeffrey E. Salzberg says:

      You do realize that almost no historian or economist believes that? It’s simply not true.

      If the Rabid Right doesn’t ;like being associated with Nazis, instead of rewriting history, they should examine those behaviors which lead people to make that association.

  • Jeffrey E. Salzberg says:

    Yes,they do, but something doesn’t magically become a “fact” just because you desperately want it to be one.

  • My feelings about this are now less nuanced than my 2015 contribution would suggest; the surge to the right and anti-semitic behaviour and sentiment gives a stronger focus to my feelings. Boehm, Karajan, et al chose to stay in Germany for opportunistic reasons. Their careers depended on it. Whether they had read ‘Mein Kampf’ is open to speculation. Or is it? They knew damned well what Hitler was about and chose to ignore. Others, more courageous got out.

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