Many thanks for the excellent Aug. 7 contribution on Wagner. Once again, I find myself in total agreement with Leon Botstein and dazzled by the clarity of his thought and eloquence of his prose. Of Wagner’s moral and ethical bankruptcy there can be as little doubt as of his musical genius.
The question we must ask ourselves is: What would be the purpose of our boycott? We obviously are not punishing Wagner (who died in 1883), and we are depriving ourselves of one of the pillars upon which the history of Western concert music rests. If people in Israel (or elsewhere) are offended by Wagner and feel that they are proving something to themselves or others by not listening to his music, they are, of course, free to make that choice. But to have such a stricture either socially or legally imposed is, as Botstein points out, both hypocritical and undemocratic.
No, if I am to shun anyone, let it at least be because I do not wish to contribute to his or her well-being. I did not go to Carnegie Hall to hear Walter Gieseking’s recital although he was a great pianist because he was an arch-Nazi and I didn’t wish any part of my ticket price to go to him. I did not visit Spain when Franco was in power. I try to avoid supporting persons whose conduct I consider to be evil and morally reprehensible.
But spending time and energy to revenge yourself on the wrongs of yesteryear while throwing out your chest in self-praise and false rectitude seems like beating the dead horse of history. Demanding that others do likewise is doubly diminishing.