Monday, May 18, 2009

How spooky are your sponsors?



On his return from Israel in late April [1952], Spender was plunged into arrangments for the 'Festival of Twentieth-Century Masterpieces of Modern Arts' in Paris. Sponsored by the CCF [Congress for Cultural Freedom] and directed by Nicolas Nabokov, the festival aimed to demonstrate that Western culture - specifically American modernist culture - could be mobilized as ideological resistance to the Soviet Union's Kultura. The CIA's International Organizations Division, which had an annual budget of £250 million, clandestinely helped underwrite the operation. Nabokov serenely took the credit for raising the money from a (supposedly) private source. The programme was scheduled to last a whole month. A huge cast of speakers and performers was recruited. The main expense (costing a massive $160,000) involved transporting the entire Boston Symphony Orchestra to Paris, for an overture performance of Stravinsky's Rite of Spring ...

As Stephen Dorill records: 'Secret CIA funding came via nearly forty different American trust and charitable foundations - 'notional donors' as they were technically known by MI6 - with the principal conduit for covert funds being the Fairfield Foundation. Its philanthropic president, Cincinnati multimillionaire Julius Fleischmann, was a director of the Metropolitan Opera in New York and fellow of the Royal Society of the Arts in London'.
From Stephen Spender - the authorized biography by John Sutherland. Photo shows Igor and Vera Stravinsky with their friend Stephen Spender in Venice in 1958. The politicaly aware and left-leaning Spender co-edited the Congress for Cultural Freedom funded London based Encounter magazine for 17 years. But he claimed to be unaware that his sponsors were spooks.

At the 1952 'Festival of Twentieth-Century Masterpieces' in Paris Stravinsky conducted in addition to Pierre Monteux, the latter was on the podium for the Rite. Other composers represented included Britten (Billy Budd), Schoenberg, Berg and Boulez. A clearly biased article on The Modern History Project website alleges that:

The [Boston] Symphony was hitched tightly to CCF, and eight of the 11 board members of CCF's music project were associated with Tanglewood.
There is no evidence in the article to support this allegation. But, if it was true, it raises the delicous possibility that some of the fine Boston Symphony commissions from the 1950s, which included Martinu's Sixth Symphony, were funded by the CIA!
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4 comments:

Rodney Lister said...

Except that the Copland Symphonic Ode was written in 1927-29.

Pliable said...

Rodney, an interesting one. Having read your email and checked, yes, you are quite right.

But I took my information from the Boston Symphony Orchestra website which containes the following information:

BSO Commissions

75th Anniversary Commissions

Aaron Copland Symphonic Ode * First Performance February 3, 1956
http://www.bso.org/bso/mods/toc_01_gen_images.jsp;jsessionid=MGAJ0Z0H5XCCICTFQMGCFEQ?id=bcat11630115

Pliable said...

Stephen Spender and Nicolas Nabokov collabarated on an opera titled Rasputin's End. It was premiered in Louisville, Kentucky in 1958 and was subsequently performed in Cologne. After that it appears to have disappeared from the repertoire.

Pliable said...

I've now removed the spurious reference to Copland's Symphonic Ode. See comments above.