The dignity of Wagner’s Jewish conductor is finally restored

The dignity of Wagner’s Jewish conductor is finally restored


norman lebrecht

July 06, 2021

After decades of desecration and neglect, the Bavarian town of ​​Garmisch-Partenkirchen has inaugurated a new tomb for Hermann Levi, conductor of the first Parsifal at Bayreuth and the last musician to see Richard Wagner alive.

Present at the reconsecration was the Berlin Philharmonic music director Kirill Petrenko, who conducted a memorial concert.

Photo: Robert Braunmüller

The installation finally brings to an end an attempt by Garmisch to have the grave removed as a public embarrassment. Read here.


  • John Borstlap says:

    The grave looks very odd, like the skin of the Wurm from the Ring. On purpose?

    • Meal says:

      Due to this report I speculate that the scales are possibly remnants of the idea of protecting the deceased with armor. After this report, K. Petrenko was skeptical about the design of the tomb, too, but eventually came to like it.

      • John Borstlap says:

        It seems to be inspired by conceptual art: what you see is meaningless as long as you don’t have read the concept. After reading the manual, you understand that the meaning is meaningless.

    • Peter San Diego says:

      What key are the scales in?

      • Meal says:

        :)) It is a mixture of F-sharp minor (German: fis-Moll) and b minor (German: h-Moll), thus fis/h scales. No joke: The metal bars of the grid are probably meant to represent note stems (as mentioned in the previously cited articles). I hope I have once the chance to see the grave. Then I will be able to decide (for myself) whether I like it and whether it makes sence to me or not.

  • mel says:

    Good to see. In Germany and many other countries in the region, as beautiful as their cemeteries are, they are extremely stringent about payment and what graves are designated for preservation in perpetuity (whether Ehrengrab or another status). I have seen graves of very important cultural figures slapped with a “payments due” sticker, and a Dutch cemetery I shall not name has told me that the grave of a Nobel Prize winner was removed in such a fashion (a bit hastily, they admitted). As someone who spends so much time in historic cemeteries, I’m always glad to see any historic grave preserved.

    Norman, I would recommend the 2 large historic Jewish cemeteries in Berlin, so well preserved despite history. Several composers rest there, ie Louis Lewandowski & Leonhard Emil Bach (Weißensee) and of course Giacomo Meyerbeer (Schönhauser Allee). Most people are surprised that such historic Jewish cultural monuments survived.

  • Meal says:

    A report about the presentation of the new conception of the gravesite as well as a short report about the concert in the context of the Herman Levi Days (conductor: K. Petrenko) can be found here: This includes also additional photos. However, the meaning of the scales is not explained further, except that the irritation is probably desired.

  • Jonathan Sutherland says:

    A highlight of this memorial concert was Johanni van Oostrum singing Levi’s translation of ‘Come scoglio’ in German.
    A star performance for a stellar musician.

  • Jack says:

    I’m glad this was finally done.

  • ThrownOutOfTheKremlinForSinging says:

    An interesting take on Parsifal. I wonder whether Hermann Levi is rolling over in his new grave.