The Israel Chamber Orchestra has broken a taboo by playing Richard Wagner’s music, at this year’s Bayreuth Festival in Germany. On 24 July the orchestra performed the Siegfried Idyll alongside works by Jewish composers Mahler and Mendelssohn.
Ahead of the concert there had been uproar about the Israeli orchestra playing music by Wagner – who was one of Hitler’s favourite composers – in his hometown.
Since 1938 there had been an unofficial ban in place at the orchestra on playing any of the composer's works.
The American Gathering of Holocaust Survivors and Their Descendants told Associated Press that the concert was a ‘disgraceful abandonment of solidarity with those who suffered unspeakable horrors by the purveyors of Wagner's banner’.
But the orchestra, under the baton of conductor Roberto Paternostro, was given a standing ovation at the end of the concert. Paternostro – who is Jewish and whose mother survived the holocaust – told Associated Press that ‘it was a joy for us to play Wagner here’ and said that he thought Wagner’s music was essential in an orchestra’s repertoire.
Paternostro added, however, that there were no plans to repeat the performance on Israeli soil. The concert has been regarded as a sign of reconciliation in the German press.