Austrian conductor leaves his library to Palestine university

Austrian conductor leaves his library to Palestine university


norman lebrecht

December 01, 2016

The music library of the late Dietfried Bernet, who died in 2011, has been donated to Bethlehem University by his widow, Johanna Bernet.

From the press release:

Mrs. Bernet shed light on the comparison her husband used to make between the situation in Vienna in the 1940s and the current situation in Palestine. He lived through the occupation in Vienna just like the students at Bethlehem University are living through the current occupation in Palestine. She believes that he would have been happy to know that his material has found a new home at Bethlehem University.




  • James says:

    He was a truly marvellous conductor. Shame his politics were apparently so muddled.

    • Holly Golightly says:

      Obviously he should have had the benefit of consulting you and others here about he should have thought and said, knowing how impeccable, right and virtuous your ideas are. I seem never to be able to stop throwing up these days thanks to the bien pensant.

      • Steven Holloway says:

        I rather think that those of us who sympathize with the situation of Palestinians, as we now know Maestro Bernet did, ARE among those whom people such as you call the bien pensant. Either you’ve recently changed your political stance or you misunderstood the post or you don’t know that Bethlehem University is in the West Bank.

  • Petra R. Klose says:

    As the initiator of this international music library which includes generous donations from an impressive amount of artists, ensembles and academies, I would like to state that this project was, from the beginning to the end, completely non political by all means. The reasons for the donations were sheerly professional, based on the simple lack of music material in the Palestinian Territories. No institution or person involved in this project, including Mrs. Johanna Bernet Lonsky would ever see, compare or make any connection between our project and Austria’s darkest and most shameful chapter of history. What she mentioned in her 40 minutes inauguration speech to the students were the many obstacles a young musician has to go through, especially when growing up during difficult circumstances as was Maestro Bernet who was born in 1940 and therefore had to find his way as a musician in the daily life of post-war Austria, when Vienna was divided in four parts. Dietfried Bernet´s childhood and youth was dominated by overcoming fear. A variety of fears. Fear – later as a young conductor, coming from a working class family, not to be accepted in the established, professional world where he was introduced. Fear – not to meet expectations by his family in him. Just to mention a few.

    I was shocked and hurt to read that her statement was so misunderstood and our project which was designed to be a positive support for promising talents has been falsely connected to political rightist thinking. Nothing could be further away from our intention than this. I would also like to invite anyone who is interested to get to know more about the work and progress of these young artists of Bethlehem University or other partner music institutions of the region we trust and are working with. I believe that talent, commitment and openness should always have the chance to be supported, no matter from which national background as it is one of our biggest chances to built bridges for the future.

    Petra R. Klose

  • Professor John Kelly says:

    The donation of Bernet’s magnificent international music library to Bethlehem University is indeed most appropriate and great news. Bethlehem University is an oasis of peace in that troubled occupied land and this gift will help to bring joy as well as education to the students of that fine university as well as to the people of Palestine. There is no place more deserving that Bethlehem University.
    John Kelly

    • Heath says:

      Fine university? Where terrorist acts are praised and there is the same consensus as in the rest of Palestinian society that murder, bloodshed and such are legitimate forms of protest? Let’s sum up the whole situation like this: If the Israelis threw down their weapons tomorrow, every last man, woman, and child in Israel would be slaughtered. If the Palestinians threw down their weapons tomorrow therw would be instant peace. And everyone reading this knows that it’s true.

      • Steven Holloway says:

        Greetings from one person “reading this” who does not know that it is true at all. For one thing, you seem to have the idea that this is just between Israel and the Palestinians. You might want to look at Syria to get some idea of how many powers and other interests play a role in such conflicts. However, if you must be simplistic and a reductionist, at least face the fact that there are plenty enough on the Israeli right-wing with genocidal notions re the Palestinians.

  • Tom Suarez says:

    I write from barely a stone’s-throw away from lovely Bethlehem University, where I have played string quartet and chamber orchestra concerts for the wonderful University student body and people of Bethlehem.
    The Trump-esque hate and profound ignorance of some of the comments here is altogether terrifying.

  • Nancy Elan says:

    Fabulous news that Johanna Bernet has donated her husband’s music library to Bethlehem University. There is a shortage of such materials in Palestine, and I can think of no better place for it than Bethlehem.

    When I first visited Bethlehem University in early 2008, a Catholic nun who played the piano told us of the terror of Israeli invasions and the hardships of life under Israeli repression. She lives through it.

    For any reader who is genuinely interested and still able to process information rationally, I suggest that they simply go there. No guides, no plans, no preconceptions, just GO. By Day Two you will never again believe what you read in the mainstream media, and by Day Three you will have begun to wonder if the history of the “conflict” you were taught is also an Orwellian inversion of the truth.

    But if you want to find out who is raising their kids to hate, sorry, you’ll have to go to the other side of the Green Line (or just read Slipped Disc). No doubt when future historians unravel the “conflict”, this blog will frequently be footnoted as evidence of the effects of the Goebbels-media.

    The “conflict” has nothing to do with Jews, Christians, Muslims, Druze, whatever — it is a violent, aggressor settler state that has managed to turn reality on its head and convince much of the world (or at least the nations with all the guns) that it is a victim.

    How extraordinary that even the innocent act of giving a music library to a university has elicited the hate demonstrated in some of these comments.

  • James says:

    I don’t see very much of “hate” in any of the above comments. Certainly my comment was in no way seeking to denigrate the donating of materials to a university – any university, including in truly internationally troubling states such as Iran, say, or North Korea. Any university anywhere should be an oasis of learning and ideas and enlightenment (notwithstanding the comment above, fairly made, about Bethlehem University’s record on terror attacks etc).

    The point I was making was purely reacting to the press release that Norman quotes: “Mrs. Bernet shed light on the comparison her husband used to make between the situation in Vienna in the 1940s and the current situation in Palestine. He lived through the occupation in Vienna just like the students at Bethlehem University are living through the current occupation in Palestine.” This seems to suggest that Mrs Bernet was seeking to draw a parallel between the Israeli/Palestinian situation and the Nazi takeover of Europe, with all that brought in its wake. This is a preposterously inaccurate and insensitive position – which brings me back to my original point, if this indeed does reflect Maestro Bernet’s politics. Maybe it doesn’t, in which case the press release is misleading.

    As for Nancy Elan’s comment, above, I can assure everyone that this is just as preposterous. Just compare the reactions of both sides after the horrific events on both sides that led to the violent conflict of two years ago – on the Palestinian side, the killers of the innocent Israeli boys were lauded, eulogised and set as an example to be followed. On the Israeli side, the perpetrators were immediately hunted down, the law was actually and swiftly changed to expand powers against Jewish terrorists in the West Bank, and the school curriculum across Israel was changed so that every school had to have as a major theme of the year, tolerance and multi-culturalism. I won’t go into this any further on a music blog. It saddens me in any case that Bernet’s nice musical gift was skewed by skewed politics.

  • luciano tanto says:

    ¿Palestina? ¿Cuál? ¿La judía, cristiana, árabe o etc.?