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Thread: DG release: "Karl Böhm: The Operas" - ethical question...

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    Nudge and a Wink
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    Default DG release: "Karl Böhm: The Operas" - ethical question...

    On January 19, 2018 Deutsche Grammophon will release "Karl Böhm: The Operas
    Complete DG Recordings".

    "70 CDs presenting Karl Böhm’s complete vocal recordings on Deutsche Grammophon, including studio productions as well as timeless live recordings from Vienna, Salzburg and Bayreuth.
    Additional spoken word recordings (in German) with Böhm detailing his relationships with Richard Strauss, Mozart and the Vienna Philharmonic: including one full disc of recordings new to CD (English synopsis for CD 70, "A Life Retold" available online)
    PACKAGING: A lift-off box featuring new liner notes by Richard Osborne
    The 1944 Ariadne auf Naxos (CDs 45-46) available digitally for the first time"

    Considering the following information taken from his Wikipedia biography in a section entitled "Nazi Sympathies" -

    " On 28 December 2015 the Salzburg Festival announced that it will affix a plaque on its Karl Böhm refreshment lobby (Karl-Böhm-Saal) acknowledging the conductor's complicity with Nazi Germany, which will say that "Böhm was a beneficiary of the Third Reich and used its system to advance his career. His ascent was facilitated by the expulsion of Jewish and politically out-of-favor colleagues".

    Austrian Radio (ORF) quoted Festival president Helga Rabl-Stadler as calling Böhm as "a great artist but fatally flawed politically". According to historian Michael H. Kater, Böhm belongs in that group of artists of whom "we also find conflicting elements of resistance, accommodation, and service to the regime, so that in the end they cannot be definitively painted as either Nazis or non-Nazis."

    While Böhm appears never to have joined the Nazi party, he praised it publicly as early as 1930, and cooperated with it in many ways as a professional. According to music journalist Norman Lebrecht, in November 1923 Böhm stopped a rehearsal in the Munich opera house in order to watch Adolf Hitler's Beer Hall Putsch.

    In 1930, he is said to have become angry when his wife was accused by Nazi brownshirts of being Jewish during the premiere of Arnold Schoenberg's opera Von heute auf morgen and to have stated that he would "tell Hitler about this".

    Kater, in his 1997 Oxford University Press book The Twisted Muse: Musicians and Their Music in the Third Reich, says that while Böhm was music director in Dresden (1934–43), he "poured forth rhetoric glorifying the Nazi regime and its cultural aims". Kater also documents how Böhm told Nazi authorities in 1935 that he could be "of propagandist service to Nazis interests by giving concerts" in Vienna, where he had "many followers... especially in the National Socialist camp," and how later that year Böhm praised "the deep artistic comprehension of the Führer"; he also "repeatedly" conducted music from Richard Wagner's Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg at opening ceremonies for the Nazi Party's annual Nuremberg Rally.

    Kater also says that Böhm's two "main career moves" in the Nazi era "tended to taint his post-1945 reputation." Kater argues that the 1934 move to the Dresden Opera to replace Fritz Busch after the latter's "politically motivated" dismissal by Nazi authorities showed Böhm's "extreme careerist opportunism at the expense of personal morality" and was facilitated directly by Hitler, who obtained for Böhm an early release from his previous contract;

    Kater also says Böhm's 1943 move to Vienna was something "Hitler wanted" by July 1942 – which is contrary to Böhm's claim that Hitler consistently opposed the move; Kater adds that shortly after Böhm's January 1943 installation in Vienna, Hitler awarded him the Martial Order of Merit.

    Lebrecht notes that after the 1938 Austrian referendum controlled by the Nazis to justify Germany's annexation of Austria, or Anschluss, the conductor told its orchestra that "anyone who does not approve this act of our Führer with a hundred-per-cent YES does not deserve to bear the honourable name of a German!"

    In 1939, Böhm contributed to the Newspapers of the Comradeship of German Artists special congratulatory edition on the occasion of Hitler's 50th birthday, writing, "The path of today's music in the sphere of symphonic works... has been marked and paved by the ideology [Weltanschauung] of National Socialism..."

    Lebrecht also states that in the wake of the Anschluss, Böhm gave the Hitler salute during a concert with the Vienna Philharmonic, ironically violating Nazi rules about places where the greeting was appropriate.

    Still, Kater notes "shades of gray," citing Böhm's "aesthetically faultless and sometimes politically daring" choice of repertory, and his collaborations with some anti-Nazi directors and designers, which "could have been interpreted by enemies of the Nazi regime as a brave attempt to preserve the principle of artistic freedom, He also mentions Böhm's claim that he sent his son Karlheinz to Switzerland in (to quote Kater) "anticipation of his own eventual flight from the Third Reich."

    Anyone else feel somewhat queasy about purchasing this particular release?

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    Quote Originally Posted by Nudge and a Wink View Post
    On January 19, 2018 Deutsche Grammophon will release "Karl Böhm: The Operas
    Complete DG Recordings".

    "70 CDs presenting Karl Böhm’s complete vocal recordings on Deutsche Grammophon, including studio productions as well as timeless live recordings from Vienna, Salzburg and Bayreuth.
    Additional spoken word recordings (in German) with Böhm detailing his relationships with Richard Strauss, Mozart and the Vienna Philharmonic: including one full disc of recordings new to CD (English synopsis for CD 70, "A Life Retold" available online)
    PACKAGING: A lift-off box featuring new liner notes by Richard Osborne
    The 1944 Ariadne auf Naxos (CDs 45-46) available digitally for the first time"

    Considering the following information taken from his Wikipedia biography in a section entitled "Nazi Sympathies" -

    " On 28 December 2015 the Salzburg Festival announced that it will affix a plaque on its Karl Böhm refreshment lobby (Karl-Böhm-Saal) acknowledging the conductor's complicity with Nazi Germany, which will say that "Böhm was a beneficiary of the Third Reich and used its system to advance his career. His ascent was facilitated by the expulsion of Jewish and politically out-of-favor colleagues".

    Austrian Radio (ORF) quoted Festival president Helga Rabl-Stadler as calling Böhm as "a great artist but fatally flawed politically". According to historian Michael H. Kater, Böhm belongs in that group of artists of whom "we also find conflicting elements of resistance, accommodation, and service to the regime, so that in the end they cannot be definitively painted as either Nazis or non-Nazis."

    While Böhm appears never to have joined the Nazi party, he praised it publicly as early as 1930, and cooperated with it in many ways as a professional. According to music journalist Norman Lebrecht, in November 1923 Böhm stopped a rehearsal in the Munich opera house in order to watch Adolf Hitler's Beer Hall Putsch.

    In 1930, he is said to have become angry when his wife was accused by Nazi brownshirts of being Jewish during the premiere of Arnold Schoenberg's opera Von heute auf morgen and to have stated that he would "tell Hitler about this".

    Kater, in his 1997 Oxford University Press book The Twisted Muse: Musicians and Their Music in the Third Reich, says that while Böhm was music director in Dresden (1934–43), he "poured forth rhetoric glorifying the Nazi regime and its cultural aims". Kater also documents how Böhm told Nazi authorities in 1935 that he could be "of propagandist service to Nazis interests by giving concerts" in Vienna, where he had "many followers... especially in the National Socialist camp," and how later that year Böhm praised "the deep artistic comprehension of the Führer"; he also "repeatedly" conducted music from Richard Wagner's Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg at opening ceremonies for the Nazi Party's annual Nuremberg Rally.

    Kater also says that Böhm's two "main career moves" in the Nazi era "tended to taint his post-1945 reputation." Kater argues that the 1934 move to the Dresden Opera to replace Fritz Busch after the latter's "politically motivated" dismissal by Nazi authorities showed Böhm's "extreme careerist opportunism at the expense of personal morality" and was facilitated directly by Hitler, who obtained for Böhm an early release from his previous contract;

    Kater also says Böhm's 1943 move to Vienna was something "Hitler wanted" by July 1942 – which is contrary to Böhm's claim that Hitler consistently opposed the move; Kater adds that shortly after Böhm's January 1943 installation in Vienna, Hitler awarded him the Martial Order of Merit.

    Lebrecht notes that after the 1938 Austrian referendum controlled by the Nazis to justify Germany's annexation of Austria, or Anschluss, the conductor told its orchestra that "anyone who does not approve this act of our Führer with a hundred-per-cent YES does not deserve to bear the honourable name of a German!"

    In 1939, Böhm contributed to the Newspapers of the Comradeship of German Artists special congratulatory edition on the occasion of Hitler's 50th birthday, writing, "The path of today's music in the sphere of symphonic works... has been marked and paved by the ideology [Weltanschauung] of National Socialism..."

    Lebrecht also states that in the wake of the Anschluss, Böhm gave the Hitler salute during a concert with the Vienna Philharmonic, ironically violating Nazi rules about places where the greeting was appropriate.

    Still, Kater notes "shades of gray," citing Böhm's "aesthetically faultless and sometimes politically daring" choice of repertory, and his collaborations with some anti-Nazi directors and designers, which "could have been interpreted by enemies of the Nazi regime as a brave attempt to preserve the principle of artistic freedom, He also mentions Böhm's claim that he sent his son Karlheinz to Switzerland in (to quote Kater) "anticipation of his own eventual flight from the Third Reich."

    Anyone else feel somewhat queasy about purchasing this particular release?
    I am not as knowledgeable about Böhm’s biography as I have become about other German musicians of the period. I did know the story of the Beer Hall Putsch, and have seen the clips of him conducting at Nazi Party rallies. I think it’s fair to say he was an enthusiastic supporter of Hitler.
    The parts about KB that you didn’t mention were regarding his post war legacy. Part of that was that he developed a serious friendship with Leonard Bernstein.
    As we have discussed elsewhere with Karajan, some of this was opportunistic, a chance to further his career. He was probably a German Nationalist. The Nazis had plenty of them, but not all of them were eliminationist Anti Semites, or necessarily bought into the Nazi Racial ideology.
    Bohm’s friendship with LB might suggest that he was a German Nationalist but not a Racialist. Or it could be that Böhm rethought his positions after the Nazi’s went down in flames. Or perhaps the Bernstein thing was an outlier. I really don’t know.
    I have purchased Böhm recordings in the past, so I guess I wouldn’t object to the set in question because of KB past. I wouldn’t buy it because I ain’t got no more room on the shelves

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    Senior Member Barbebleu's Avatar
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    If I stopped buying stuff because the person producing it was objectionable then I would be buying a lot less.
    "...it is said that first your heart sings, then you play. I think if it is not like that, then it is only just combination of notes, isn't it? " - Pandit Nikhil Banerjee, Master of the Sitar.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Nudge and a Wink View Post
    Anyone else feel somewhat queasy about purchasing this particular release?
    Not in the least; I can handle it. Can you?

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    Quote Originally Posted by Bulldog View Post
    Not in the least; I can handle it. Can you?
    Probably not to be honest... To each his own... Some battles with some people just aren't worth fighting and this is one of them...

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    Senior Member wkasimer's Avatar
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    "The 1944 Ariadne auf Naxos (CDs 45-46) available digitally for the first time"
    No, it isn't. Preiser issued this on CD in 1994.

    Anyone else feel somewhat queasy about purchasing this particular release?
    No. If Bohm were alive, I probably would. But he isn't....

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    Why on earth is this thread in the religious section.
    Question for mods of course.
    Last edited by Pugg; Nov-02-2017 at 05:56.

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    Quote Originally Posted by wkasimer View Post

    No. If Bohm were alive, I probably would. But he isn't....
    Whether dead or alive, what he was is who he was... apparently for you that's inconsequential and as I mentioned previously I'm firmly on the side of "to each his own" and thus I would never think to criticize your decision to purchase the set but for me it is just consequential enough that I'm not able to get past what he was and who he was and so for me the decision to take a pass is effortless...

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    Nudge and a Wink
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    Quote Originally Posted by Pugg View Post
    Why on earth is this thread in the religious section.
    Question for mods of course.
    Hello Pugg, hope all it well..

    When I created this thread it was meant to appear in the "Opera" forum but when I clicked on "Post" it didn't initially appear. A day later one of the moderators sent me a PM advising me that the thread had been moved to the "Politics and Religion in Classical Music" sub-forum because the Nazi angle made it more suitable for placement here rather than there.

    Side note... I tried to write - Hello Pugg, *** gaat het but when I saved the post the *** is removed and replaced by 3 asterisks. I can't even imagine what that is all about... as you are aware the first letter is "h", the second is "o", and the third is "e". Can't even guess what is objectionable but from now on I'll confine my greetings to English...
    Last edited by Nudge and a Wink; Nov-02-2017 at 13:55.

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    Quote Originally Posted by wkasimer View Post
    No, it isn't. Preiser issued this on CD in 1994.


    That isn't a quote that I generated... it was a copy and paste job from DG's promo release so they'll have to take the heat on this one...

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    Senior Member Becca's Avatar
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    Based on the OP's thoughts about Karl Bohm, I probably should also feel queasy about listening to Reginald Goodall's recordings.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Becca View Post
    Based on the OP's thoughts about Karl Bohm, I probably should also feel queasy about listening to Reginald Goodall's recordings.
    only if the OP's thoughts coincide with yours

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    Quote Originally Posted by Becca View Post
    Based on the OP's thoughts about Karl Bohm, I probably should also feel queasy about listening to Reginald Goodall's recordings.
    Just a little background to help explain Becca's reference - (copied and pasted by me courtesy of Wikipedia...)

    "Passionate about all things German, in the 1930s Goodall openly sympathized with the Nazi regime, which he perceived as a defender of Germanic cultural traditions. Goodall also actively supported Oswald Mosley's British Union of Fascists, and he eventually joined the party just five days after Britain's declaration of war on Germany. He maintained his outspoken pro-Nazi views during World War II, the uninhibited expression of which once led him to be briefly questioned by the police. Goodall was known to refer to the Holocaust as a "BBC Jewish plot"."

    Personally, I would feel queasy about listening to Reginald Goodall's recordings but I've always been pretty clear that I would never judge anyone for doing so - same with Böhm - my reasons for avoiding them are personal and I wouldn't dream of imposing my sense of ethics or morality on anyone.

    I've never really been all that certain that I would have had the strength of character to not become who they were if I were placed in a similar situation... I would like to believe that I would be noble and heroic but saying that is a hell of a lot easier to do than actually living that way whilst living in Germany in the 1930's (Böhm and Karajan obviously, not Goodall...)

    Anyway, really cool reference, Becca, intimidatingly obscure - my compliments!
    Last edited by Nudge and a Wink; Nov-02-2017 at 21:30.

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    Senior Member Barbebleu's Avatar
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    We are in tricky ethical territory here aren't we. Are our ethics being called into question because of the fact that many people are still alive who lived through this period in European history and for them the horrors are all too vivid in their memory. At which point then do we consign events to history and move on. In Scotland there is a religious divide over an event that took place over three centuries ago and it is still a bitter divide for many. Where and when does it end? I think I mentioned in another thread that if I stopped buying music by artists whose morals and ethics I disapproved of then I I fear would rarely buy anything. As far as my wife's concerned this would be no bad thing! Perhaps it is better to concentrate purely on the music and not on those who either compose or interpret it.
    Last edited by Barbebleu; Nov-02-2017 at 22:36.
    "...it is said that first your heart sings, then you play. I think if it is not like that, then it is only just combination of notes, isn't it? " - Pandit Nikhil Banerjee, Master of the Sitar.

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    I must admit I don't know much about Böhm's history, but the recordings in this boxset are paradise - how great to have these 3 Ariadnes united in DG remasterings! And finally a re-release of his wonderful Clemenza di Tito ...

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