The Worlds of Refugee Musicians

By the mid-20th century, Elizabeth Braw reports, “virtually every American conservatoire and symphony orchestra [included] highly skilled musicians from countries ravaged either by the Nazis, the Soviets, or both.” Since that time, a sort of community has formed around musicians who fled violence and brought distinctive musical traditions to their new homes. As Braw notes, many such musicians will soon assemble in the Ukrainian Freedom Orchestra, a project of New York’s Metropolitan Opera and the Polish National Opera.

One day in 1939, a sixteen-year-old named Menahem Pressler from the German city of Magdeburg arrived with his family in Israel after having escaped the Nazis’ persecution of Jews. Seven years later, the piano prodigy was a famous soloist in American and European concert halls. To this day, the now-ninety-nine-year-old remains a venerated professor of music at Indiana University (IU) and continues to teach the piano. He’s just one of countless musicians who have been uprooted by war or persecution—to the benefit of conservatoires, orchestras, and concert halls in other countries.

When, in 1955, Pressler decided to scale back on his soloist career and joined the music faculty of at Indiana, he became part of a conservatoire that was already home to several other refugees from Nazism. The European refugees, in fact, helped raise the Jacobs School of Music to such heights that it was often said that the conservatory should thank two men for its success: IU’s President Herman Wells and Adolf Hitler.

[Among the best-known refugee musicians are] the Jewish-German cellist Anita Lasker-Wallfisch (a former member of the Women’s Orchestra of Auschwitz), the Jewish-German conductors Bruno Walter and Otto Klemperer, the Jewish-Austrian composer Arnold Schönberg, Jewish-Austrian violinist Max Rostal, [and others]. Many other exiled musicians were far less famous, serving as orchestral players or instrumental teachers. But all brought a phenomenal skill and verve to orchestras, conservatoires, and teaching.

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Read more at Engelsberg Ideas

More about: Classical music, Refugees, War in Ukraine, World War II

 

Salman Rushdie and the Western Apologists for Those Who Wish Him Dead

Aug. 17 2022

Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, the founder and supreme leader of the Islamic Republic of Iran, issued a fatwa (religious ruling) in 1989 calling for believers to murder the novelist Salman Rushdie due to the content of his novel, The Satanic Verses. Over the years, two of the book’s translators have been stabbed—one fatally—and numerous others have been injured or killed in attempts to follow the ayatollah’s writ. Last week, an American Shiite Muslim came closer than his many predecessors to killing Rushdie, stabbing him multiple times and leaving him in critical condition. Graeme Wood comments on those intellectuals in the West who have exuded sympathy for the stabbers:

In 1989, the reaction to the fatwa was split three ways: some supported it; some opposed it; and some opposed it, to be sure, but still wanted everyone to know how bad Rushdie and his novel were. This last faction, Team To Be Sure, took the West to task for elevating this troublesome man and his insulting book, whose devilry could have been averted had others been more attuned to the sensibilities of the offended.

The fumes are still rising off of this last group. The former president Jimmy Carter was, at the time of the original fatwa, the most prominent American to suggest that the crime of murder should be balanced against Rushdie’s crime of blasphemy. The ayatollah’s death sentence “caused writers and public officials in Western nations to become almost exclusively preoccupied with the author’s rights,” Carter wrote in an op-ed for the New York Times. Well, yes. Carter did not only say that many Muslims were offended and wished violence on Rushdie; that was simply a matter of fact, reported frequently in the news pages. He took to the op-ed page to add his view that these fanatics had a point. “While Rushdie’s First Amendment freedoms are important,” he wrote, “we have tended to promote him and his book with little acknowledgment that it is a direct insult to those millions of Moslems whose sacred beliefs have been violated.” Never mind that millions of Muslims take no offense at all, and are insulted by the implication that they should.

Over the past two decades, our culture has been Carterized. We have conceded moral authority to howling mobs, and the louder the howls, the more we have agreed that the howls were worth heeding. The novelist Hanif Kureishi has said that “nobody would have the [courage]” to write The Satanic Verses today. More precisely, nobody would publish it, because sensitivity readers would notice the theological delicacy of the book’s title and plot. The ayatollahs have trained them well, and social-media disasters of recent years have reinforced the lesson: don’t publish books that get you criticized, either by semiliterate fanatics on the other side of the world or by semiliterate fanatics on this one.

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Read more at Atlantic

More about: Ayatollah Khomeini, Freedom of Speech, Iran, Islamism, Jimmy Carter