Friday, August 08, 2008
Olympic fire and matters of conscience
That great musician and man of conscience Pablo Casals is seen above with his wife Marta meeting the Kennedys at a White House reception. There are two BBC Proms this evening and they both include music to celebrate the opening of the Beijing Olympics. The poetry of A.E. Housman was recited to some effect during the Prom on July 29 so I suggest the following words by Pablo Casals are read tonight before Chen Yi's Olympic Fire and Michael Torke's Javelin:
'An affront to human dignity is an affront to me; and to protest against injustice is a matter of conscience. Are human rights of less importance to an artist than to other men? Does being an artist exempt him from his obligations as a man? If anything, the artist has an even greater responsibility, because he has been granted special sensitivities and perceptions and because his voice may be heard when others may not. Who, indeed, should be more concerned than the artist about the defense of liberty and free inquiry? Such fundamentals are essential to his creativity.'
In 1936 Toscanini left the Salzburg Festival, never to return, in protest against its anti-semitic policies. In 1942 Hugo Distler took his own life rather than fight for the Nazis. In 1943 Michael Tippett went to prison rather than abandon his pacifist beliefs. In 1946 Casals stopped playing the cello in public in protest at recognition of the fascist regime in Spain. In 1948 the lives of Shostakovich, Prokofiev, Khachaturian, Miaskovsky and others went on hold when their music was condemned by the Soviet union of composers. In 1967 Mikis Theodorakis was imprisoned by the Greek military junta for his political views. In 1968 athletes from the Olympic Project for Human Rights sacrificed their careers in Mexico as a protest against racial discrimination. In 1972 Rostropovich's overseas and Moscow concerts were cancelled by the Soviets in response to his support for Alexander Solzhenitsyn. Today's artists prefer 'cultural diplomacy'.
* Follow the path in search of Pablo Casals here.
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