Musicians setting a good example
Wonderful to see so much enthusiasm for the BBC Prom by the Simón Bolívar Youth Orchestra of Venezuela and Gustvo Dudamel. But respect also to Alice O'Keefe in the Independent for mentioning the unmentionable.
But with Venezuela fiercely polarised over the "Bolivarian revolution" spearheaded by President Hugo Chavez (above), Dudamel's de facto position as an ambassador for his country is far from easy. Since the government refused to renew the licence for RCTV, the opposition television station, earlier this year, there is increasing unease about restrictions on the freedom of expression.
Dudamel himself was criticised when he conducted the Simón Bolívar Youth Orchestra playing the national anthem at the launch of TVes, the state-controlled channel that replaced RCTV. One "open letter" circulated on many blogs compared him to Wilhelm Furtwängler, the conductor accused of being a Nazi supporter.
Dudamel is unapologetic. "The launch of TVes was an emotional moment for the country. But if you look at the 30 years of the orchestra, we have recorded thousands of anthems, for both state and private TV and radio channels. The image of the orchestra is made for everyone. ...People ask me what position I take. My position is that I make music, and I am Venezuelan. I want to promote the name of my country – not one political party or another, but my whole country."
Let's not forget that Furtwängler didn't have a monopoly on interesting views about the relationship between politics and music.
Tribunal - "What would you do if Britain were invaded?"
Britten - "I believe in letting an invader in and then setting a good example"
From transcript of Benjamin Britten's appearance before a tribunal for the registration of Conscientous Objectors, 28 May 1942.
Boulez saw benefits in the German occupation of Paris. "The theaters were crowded. People could not leave the cities and all of them jammed into concert halls. I went to a concert given by my own piano teacher and could hardly get into it. The Germans virtually brought high culture to France."
From Boulez - Composer, Conductor, Enigma by Joan Peyser (Schirmer ISBN 0028717007)
Now read how a strange mind can produce great new music.
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