Thursday, April 11, 2013

Kaufmann on Wagner and anti-Semitism

[First of all, wanted to let you know that I'm on BBC Radio 3's IN TUNE today between 5 and 5.30pm, talking about the Royal Philharmonic Awards shortlist, which is being announced this afternoon.]

In an interview with Mannheim Morgenweb the one and only Jonas Kaufmann talks about - among other things - Wagner, anti-Semitism and how to separate them. Below are a few  highlights (any mistakes are either mine or Google Translate's) and the whole thing in German is here. In case you didn't know, he is giving a recital with orchestra in London at the Royal Festival Hall on 21 April including arias by the anniversary boys Verdi and Wagner.

... it appears that you currently working a lot on your piano. Optical illusion?

Kaufmann: No, do not be fooled. I lay on the soft and subtle sounds at least as much value as the large and dramatic. An old rule for singers is: only those who have a sonorous piano can develop a healthy forte. But this concerns not only technical matters, but above all the artistic.

What position do you refer in the matter of Wagner? Can you separate the wonderful work of vile anti-Semites?

Kaufmann: Wagner's anti-Semitic writings and his self-esteem will always be a stumbling block. Even militant Wagnerians wish sometimes that he had only composed, and not written so much. But as for your question, I think you should separate work and man, just as one should distinguish the anti-Semitism of nationalists like Wagner from the antisemitism of the Nazis.

Does that work?

Kaufmann: The fact that Wagner's works have been abused by the Nazis does not alter their artistic importance. They belong to the greatest. Many Jewish artists who were expelled by the Nazis from Germany and Austria have also recognised this: singers like Friedrich Schorr had no problem with Wagner being performed at the Met. And someone like Daniel Barenboim has long worked for the performance of Wagner in Israel to be allowed.