Top Left Link Buttons
  • English
  • German

Music updates

Category Archives

Beethoven: Sparks of Joy – No. 14

When Beethoven Becomes Hilarious!
Notes by Fred Haight

We have had several episodes on Beethoven’s sense of humor. Today, we cross over into utter hilarity. Beethoven composed folk songs in many languages, including English, Italian, Danish, and Russian.

  1. The first piece today is not a folk song but a setting of Goethe’s The Flea from his Faust. Its part of 6 songs that he composed in 1809, op. 75, no. 3. It’s in German. Here, Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau performs the song, with English subtitles.

2. One commenter reminded us of the song Ih nit di Nehma, from 23 Songs of Different Nationalities, WoO158a (1816/17). If you are wondering what language it is, it appears to be a Tyrolean dialect. Tyrol/Trentino straddles Austria and Italy. It is mountainous and apparently has a lot of regional dialects. We print here the closest thing we could find to a translation. Two things are clear a). There is a lot of yodeling. b). A woman is rejecting a man, and by the sound of her voice, he should not be too disappointed.

I nit di nehma
I like di nit nehma,
You top pike,
You can’t come to me
You were much too bad for me;
And you wanna be my man
You urban aff,
What do you think of no
You foolish laff
You talked yodel,
What you need a woman
You have a soda Koan juice more in body;
You’re cute like a brue
And cute as a bird
what did a woman do to you.
The gannet from Passau
Is your contrase
You kier like a Spanau,
Now go and go
Stop your grumbling
I’m telling you
I give you a faunzen
You talketer bue.

Talketer Jodel = foolish journeyman
You have = anyway
Contrase = image
You kier = you squeak
Faunzen = slap in the face

3. L’amante Impazione (the Impatient Lover) Op 82, No. 3 and 4 (composed 1809), are in Italian. The lover seems a bit infantile. Beethoven captures this manic-depressive quality by setting it twice, once in a manic way, and once in a depressive way, using exactly the same words. Both are played here. Click on two separate videos to hear the two versions!

Che fa, che fa il mio bene?
Perché non viene?
Vedermi vuole languir
Così, così, così!
Oh come è lento nel corso il sole!
Ogni momento mi sembra un dì,
Che fa, che fa il mio bene?
Perchè, perché non viene?
Vedermi vuole languir
Così, così, così!

What is my darling doing?
Perhaps she will not come?
She likes to see me pine away
Like this, like this, like this
How slowly the sun runs its course,
Every second’s like a day.
What is my darling doing?
Perhaps she will not come ……. ?
She likes to see me pine away
Like this, like this, like this.

Beethoven: Sparks of Joy – No. 13

Goethe and Beethoven: “Getting Along with Girls”
Notes by Fred Haight

The Classics are often associated with imagery of stuffy-old-white-male who have nothing relatable for the contemporary youth generation. We beg to differ.

Goethe’s Mit Mädeln sich Vertragen (Getting Along with Girls), written in 1787, is a poem that makes hilarious fun of the “machismo” mentality of any young, over-confident, would be Don Juan. Beethoven captures Goethe’s imagery perfectly (including a mock sword fight), in this short work for Bass and Orchestra, WoO 90 (composed around 1790-92).

Mit Mädeln sich Vertragen:

Mit Mädeln sich vertragen,

Mit Männern ‘rumgeschlagen,

Und mehr Credit als Geld;

So kommt man durch die Welt.

Ein Lied, am Abend warm gesungen,

Hat mir schon manches Herz errungen;

Und steht der Neider an der Wand,

Hervor den Degen in der Hand;

‘Raus, feurig, frisch,

Den Flederwisch!

Kling! Kling! Klang! Klang!

Dik! Dik! Dak! Dak!

Krik! Krak!

Mit Mädeln sich vertragen,

Mit Männern ‘rumgeschlagen,

Und mehr Credit als Geld;

So kommt man durch die Welt.

With girls I get along,

With men I brawl,

With more credit than money;

This how one goes through the world.

A song, sung on a warm evening,

Has already won many a heart for me;

And I back the jealous one against the wall, His sword in his hand; Out, fiery, fresh, The feather duster!

Clink! Clink! Clang! Clang!

Dick! Dick! Dack! Dack!

Crick! Crack!

With girls I get along,

With men I brawl,

With more credit than money;

This is how one goes through the world.

Beethoven: Sparks of Joy – No. 12

Beethoven’s Sense of Humor Part 2: “To beat, or not to beat.”
Notes By Fred Haight

In part 1 of Beethoven’s humor, we wrote about “Rage of a Lost Penny”. Today, we talk about the humor in Beethoven’s 8th symphony.

Johann Nepomuk Maelzel tried his hand at Artificial Intelligence about two centuries ago. It did not work out so well for him. In 1821, he brought an automaton chess player called “the Turk” to the United States and toured widely with it, claiming to have invented it and that the “automaton” had the intelligence to regulate its moves. This fraud was later exposed by Edgar Allan Poe in an essay. It turned out that his automatic chess player contained a man hidden inside it (picture below). The machine was in fact invented by Wolfgang von Kempelen and bamboozled the public for decades before being discovered.

Maelzel also claimed to have invented the metronome. Actually, he did not invent that either.

In 1813, Maelzel encouraged Beethoven to compose what could possibly be his worst piece, “Wellington’s Victory”, which celebrates Wellington’s military victory over Napoleon. Maelzel laid out all of the parameters and special effects to make it sound like a battle, including quotes of “Rule Britannia.” Performances featured interludes by Maelzel’s automaton trumpeter and his Panharmonikon, an automatic orchestra.

Despite the composition’s commercial success, Beethoven ended up suing Maelzel when he tried to pass the work off as his own. Beethoven described him as “a rude, churlish man, entirely devoid of education or cultivation.”

Listen to this canon that maked fun of Maelzel and his metronome.

These days, scholars who love to spoil all the fun, claim that the canon was actually written by Beethoven’s aide-de-camp, Anton Schindler, and passed off as praise for Maelzel by Beethoven. That does not quite make sense. Here are the words of the canon:

Ta ta ta, dear Maelzel

ta ta ta, live well, very well

ta ta ta, you Banner of Time

ta ta ta, you great metronome.

ta ta ta ta ta ta.

Faint praise indeed. Besides, Schindler was very critical of taking Beethoven’s metronome markings literally, because he personally had experienced Beethoven change his mind about what tempo his works should be taken at. Beethoven alleged comment to Schindler: “No more metronome! Anyone who can feel the music right does not need it; and for anyone who can’t, nothing is of any use; he runs away with the whole orchestra anyway.”

Now to Beethoven’s 8th symphony. The second movement resembles this canon. The same scholars argue that the symphony came before Maelzel patented his metronome, so it could not be a parody of it.

Give us a break! In the symphony, Beethoven is clearly making fun of a too strict tempo. But we ask you, the audience to listen and tell us what you think!

Beethoven: Sparks of Joy – No. 11

Beethoven and Tragedy: The Coriolan Overture
Notes By Fred Haight

We have already talked about Beethoven’s sense of the heroic; and the power and optimism expressed in his Third Symphony, his only opera Fidelio, and the Egmont Overture.

However, an important part of trying to create a positive outcome for society, involves the study of tragedy. This does not refer to the way in which people use the term today, such as a natural disaster, but what happens when the flaws in both a leader and a society result in failure, or worse, betrayal?

Heinrich Joseph von Collin wrote his play, Coriolan, in 1804, the year that Napoleon crowned himself as Emporer. That same year, Beethoven scratched out the dedication of his Third Symphony to Bonaparte, lamenting that now Napoleon would become just another tyrant, and trample on the rights of men. That same year, Schiller premiered his last play, Wilhelm Tell, celebrating the ancient triumph of ordinary Swiss people over the threat of subjugation by the Hapsburg Empire.

In the next year, 1805, the French army occupied Vienna, and many of the city’s leaders left. Von Collin was an opponent of the French occupation, but also seems to have served as some sort of diplomatic liaison. In 1807, Coriolan was performed with a prelude composed by Ludwig van Beethoven. Von Collin was a classicist, familiar not only with Shakespeare, but with the ancient Greeks and Romans. Von Collin’s play is a Germanic rewrite of the ancient story of Gaius Marcius Corialanus, which Shakespeare also wrote about, in his play Coriolanus. We will use Shakespeare’s play Coriolanus, supplemented by the historical writings of Livy and Plutarch, to give a brief account of this tragedy of a flawed military leader and a flawed Roman Republic.

Gaius Marcius Coriolanus was promoted to General after showing great personal courage in defeating the Volscians at the city of Corioli, and was given the honorary name Coriolanus. He made an effort to seek higher political office, but had a deep flaw, in that he DESPISED the ordinary people—the plebeians. That was not just Coriolanus. There was a severe overall divide in the Roman Empire between the plebeians and the patricians. He had to win their approval to be promoted, but he absolutely refused to obey the standard ritual of showing them his war wounds. Worse, he was a speculator, who hoarded grain even while the people starved. He insulted the people, calling them “crows pecking at eagles”. As a result, Coriolanus, the war hero, was exiled from Rome. His wounded ego was so enraged that he went to his old enemies, The Volscians, and offered to lead their army in an attack on Rome. They marched together. The Romans were so freaked out that as Coriolanus and the Volscians approached, they sent Coriolanus’ mother (who had far too much influence on him), and his wife and children to talk him out of it. He relented. Thus, he became seen as a traitor by both the Romans AND the Volscians, who were at the gates of Rome. In Shakespeare’s play, he was murdered. In the Collin, he committed suicide.

If you read Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar, you see the same problem within the Roman Republic: a huge rift between the people and those in power—the plebeians and the patricians. The patricians had no respect for the plebeians, and the plebeians were fickle, having had no sense of loyalty to the patricians. In 1804, this history would be resonating in people’s minds, as the French Revolution descended into barbarism, with the “sans culottes” decapitating the aristocracy in droves, and as a great general, who promised to liberate the people, became a tyrant.

This performance of the Coriolan Overture is conducted by Wilhelm Furtwangler, recorded in 1943, as Germany and the world experienced an even worse tragedy.

Beethoven: Sparks of Joy – No. 10

Beethoven’s Sense of Humor
by Fred Haight

No-one is quite sure what the story is behind Rage Over a Lost Penny. But Beethoven seems to be making fun of those who obsess over the trivial. Listen and tell us what you think!

Lift Every Voice: Towards a Renaissance of Classical Culture

On Friday, January 25, the Schiller Institute Houston Community Chorus invited members of the community to celebrate the life of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. at an event in southwest Houston.

Texas Schiller Institute spokesman Brian Lantz opened the event highlighting the shifts occurring globally towards greater cooperation, and that Dr. King knew the only way to create a durable peace was through the reconciliation of differences and non-violent cooperation, even if some attempt to stifle it. He described how King saw cooperation through the idea of agapic, unconditional love for humanity, as expressed in the first Corinthians. Dr. King was an avid lover of classical music and opera, as was his wife, Coretta Scott King, a trained pianist and classical singer.


Texas Schiller Institute head Brian Lantz’s opening remarks on Dr. King.

The chorus opened the concert with a four part polyphony of the anthem “Lift Every Voice and Sing”, followed by a collage of short audio speeches by Dr. King. The program continued with four selections from the Mozart Vespers, Mozart’s “Ave Verum Corpus”, a traditional Chinese folk song, “Jasmine flower” (Mo Li Hua), and a number of spiritual selections, one of which was led by tenor Brian Lantz.  Among the highlights of the evening were the solo spiritual performances of  “Go Down Moses” sung by Maestro Dorceal Duckens, and “Swing Low Sweet Chariot” sung by Kesha Rogers.

Maestro Dorceal Duckens singing 'Go Down Moses'.

Maestro Dorceal Duckens singing ‘Go Down Moses’.

The audience was truly transformed by the power of the music and the selection of clips from Dr. King intertwined. At the end of the event the audience was asked to stand and cross arms and join in in singing “We Shall Overcome.”

The Houston Schiller Institute Community Chorus.

The Houston Schiller Institute Community Chorus.

Newer members to the chorus expressed how happy they were to sing with the chorus.  Everyone was overjoyed by the experience and you had a sense that the concert had a transforming quality on everyone. It was not just entertainment, and no one left the room as the same person they were when they entered.

Virginia Schiller Institute Chorus Rings in the New Year

On January 1st, the Virginia Schiller Institute Community Chorus continued its tradition of ringing in the New Year with a concert of Classical music in Leesburg, VA. Megan Beets, director of the chorus, opened the concert quoting Friedrich Schiller, “Live with your century, but be not its creature; give to your contemporaries, but what they need, not what they praise…. Your own nobility will awaken theirs, and their unworthiness will not defeat your purpose.”  She challenged the audience with Schiller’s maxim that a beautiful culture is not an option, but that beauty and the beautiful character is a necessary condition for mankind. She also reminded the audience of the true context in which we welcome the new year,

Virginia Schiller Institute Choral Director, Megan Beets

Virginia Schiller Institute Choral Director, Megan Beets

“…we are in a period of great change and transformation for all mankind. The old order of empire and war is collapsing as we speak, and new possibilities for the future of humanity are coming to the fore–for example, the fact that a little over 12 hours ago, a little space craft from planet Earth called “New Horizons”  flew by and gathered data from an an object in the farthest reaches of our solar system, over 4 billion miles away. Or that in the next day or two, a little spacecraft from planet Earth called “Chang’e 4”, launched by China, will attempt the first-ever landing on the far side of the Moon.”

With this introduction, the 90+ minute program began, a lively mix of offerings by the chorus and musician friends, including vocal and instrumental soloists. The chorus performed Spirituals, two pieces from Handel’s Messiah, and two “Glorias”—one a chorale from Bach’s Wachet Auf and the other from Beethoven’s Mass in C. Other offerings included Bach solo strings—one each for violin, viola, and cello; the first movement of Dvorak’s “American” string quartet; a Mozart trio from Cosi fan tutte; a trumpet air from a Bach cantata; and vocal solos including a Schumann lied, Russian folk songs, and Burleigh’s “Honor! Honor!”

The audience, 100 people (with roughly 50 musicians on top of that) was diverse mix of teachers, musicians, students, former local politicians, friends of the church, and others who had seen the concert advertised in shops and in newspapers. Attentive and engaged throughout the entire 90+ minute event, the general response from the audience was one of awe. Many attendees, coming to hear music, were struck by the directors opening remarks and how fitting they are for today’s times. “I can’t believe what I heard and saw, this was wonderful, I could hardly keep from crying!”, reported a local businesswoman and former federal government employee who came off a weekly paper ad. “Awesome! Such diverse talents! Diverse community too!” “Wonderful way to begin the year. Thank you so much!”


Several of the soloists who performed also reiterated their appreciation for the opportunity to work the Schiller Institute. One soloist, inspired by the Schiller Institute’s “top-down” approach to thinking about global events and culture, and moved by Michelle Fuchs’ two Russian pieces, decided she would also start working on Russian songs as a way to share their culture with Americans. Another soloist said, “I wouldn’t miss these concerts for anything, they have become very special to me.” And a third soloist, “I’ve been watching this group; the tone of it is improving every time I hear it, it’s getting pretty good.”

The reception afterwards was festive and celebratory, with audience members expressing their gratitude towards the Schiller chorus for uplifting their state of mind, and creating such a memorable cultural impact in their community.

For more information on the Virginia Schiller Institute Community Chorus, contact

Sylvia Olden Lee – A Musical Tribute To A Beautiful Soul.

The Schiller Boston Chorus hosted a centennial celebration concert honoring master musician and teacher, Sylvia Olden Lee.  We also marked the birthdays of patriots President’s John F. Kennedy (100th) and John Quincy Adams (250th) in this concert of African-American Spirituals, Verdi, Mozart, solo, ensemble, choral music and more held on October 15th in Dorchester, Mass, at the St. Mary’s Episcopal Church. Thank you to the Boston Neighborhood Network for filming the concert. All performances were at the Verdi tuning of C=256.

The program included selections from Life of Christ by Roland Hayes, Robert Schumann’s entire Dichterliebe and operatic arias performed by local artists, Brian and Ana Landry and Christina DeVaughn among others.

Program PDF

Find out more about the Schiller Boston Chorus!

A Joint Concert with Germany’s Jena Jubilee Singers

On October 8th, 2019 the Schiller Boston Community Chorus joined voices with the Jena Jubilee Singers of Germany in a rousing concert entitled “Walk Together Children” which featured African-American Spirituals and German Art Songs.  The joyous musical dialogue that ensued between the German singers, the American singers, and the audience, in this concert, was a true example of the necessity of and long-lasting affect of Classical culture. Quincy access TV were there to capture the event.




Open Letter to Germany’s Classical Music Lovers in the Year of Beethoven: The Bounds of Decency Have Been Breached

The first thing one can say about the performance of Beethoven’s Fidelio at the Darmstadt Theater, in a production of Paul-Georg Dittrich with a musical adaptation of the finale by Annette Schlünz, is: It’s god-awful! It couldn’t be worse. God-awful from a musical, artistic, philosophical and human standpoint. Of the long series of stupid, crude, repetitive Regietheater [fn1] performances, that have been staged for over half a century(!)—limited at first to theater, but then also inflicted on the opera—this performance was the absolute low point.

In the summer of 1966, when Hans Neuenfels—then a 25-year-old dramatist at the Trier Theater—had a leaflet distributed to promote the “First Happening in Rheinland-Palatinate,” in which he even asked, “Why don’t you rape little girls?” he was expressing the convictions of the 1968 movement, as we have known it since at least Daniel Cohn-Bendit. Since then—for 53 years now!—various nudes, rock bands, schizophrenics, or actors in Nazi costumes have been copulating on stage, and have succeeded in distorting beyond recognition the plays and compositions of Classical poets and composers. This is definitely not originality.

A scene from the Darmstadt performance of Beethoven’s Fidelio.

A scene from the Darmstadt performance of Beethoven’s Fidelio.

The Fidelio staging in Darmstadt presents a multimedia mixture of aesthetic vulgarity, Brechtian alienation effects, and the intrusion during the first part’s musical scenes of a screen filling the entire stage, on which photos and film clips are projected. They are supposed to illustrate the historical background of eight productions from 1805 until today. The overall impression is chaotic, and you begin to feel sorry for the singers who have to sing against this storm of clips, and for the heroine Leonore, who has to run around the stage the whole time like a headless chicken.

But the real monstrosity comes in the second part, when the Finale, the opera’s magnificent hymn to freedom, is literally chopped up in martial manner by the insertion of compositions in the New Music style of Annette Schlünz. In the program notes, Schlünz describes her insertions:

Annette Schlünz

Annette Schlünz

Little by little, a “chorus of hails” emerged, which becomes silent in part, or in which only individual voices or words remain. Sometimes I radicalize Beethoven’s instrumentation to reinforce his ideas or I repeat individual bars and then suddenly stop. I very much wanted to weave in external sounds and to color the music in some places. The trumpet fanfare, which is heard from the balcony of the State Theater before the performance begins, is something I take up and expand. It’s the signal that summons to a departure: Some instruments and musicians that drop out of the sound of the orchestra become, so to speak, rebellious, and bring in something new. The F major ensemble piece—a fantastic piece with a sacredness and coherence that I would never dare to approach—I leave untouched like a gem. The subsequent interlude with my music, in which different sounds, including the voices of eight vocalists, are sent throughout the room, completely breaks up Beethoven’s world of sound.

From the standpoint of the maltreated spectator, the noise that Schlünz inserted, during which the singers and instrumentalists trumpeted their deafening rubbish from the middle of the audience and from all sides, has nothing to do with music: It clearly crosses the line to bodily harm.

Just how emotionally damaged Schlünz is, becomes clear in the next sentences:

When listening, I often imagined that I was sitting at the controls of a mixer console and turned up the speed. And then I would just assume that Beethoven, when he composed, almost intended to go too far and fast. It’s really exulting! It reminds me of children who go crazy with excitement because they don’t know how to keep their emotions under control.

If there is anything crazy here, it is the pitiful state shown by Schlünz, in her emotional impotence to understand the sublime nature of the victory of the love between Leonore and Florestan. Moreover, she obviously cannot stand such greatness; her idea of wanting to speed up the music by adjusting a mixer console, represents the same uncontrollable freak-out that led the murderers of Ibykus [fn2] to betray themselves after the choir of the Erinyes had called forth the higher power of poetry in the theater of Corinth. Small, base minds cannot stand great ideas nor sublime feelings.

The magnificent Finale of Fidelio, in which Beethoven celebrates the defeat of tyranny through the courage of conjugal love is an expression of the noblest humanity, where love, courage and the desire for freedom are expressed in music. In Leonore’s preceding aria, she sings: “I shall not waver, I am strengthened by my duty of marital love.” Beethoven chose as subject for the opera the idealization, in Schiller’s sense, of a historical event, namely the liberation of the hero of the American Revolution, the Marquis de Lafayette, the French Republican, by his wife Adrienne. This reflects Beethoven’s own republican sentiments, which included at that time of feudal structures and Napoleonic campaigns, both personal courage and the desire for freedom.

Portrayal of Leonora in the Darmstadt performance of Fidelio.

Portrayal of Leonora in the Darmstadt performance of Fidelio.

Such deeply human feelings, however, are no longer accessible to the disturbed emotionality of the representatives of the Frankfurt School and the liberal Zeitgeist. Stage director Paul-Georg Dittrich states most tellingly in his interview in the program notes, that the Finale seems to him “like a celebration where you don’t even know what is actually being celebrated.” While Dittrich and Schlünz may not know it, that in no way gives them the right to destroy ordinary people’s access to it by deconstructing Beethoven’s composition.

But precisely that was the intention from the very beginning of the diverse currents that formed the tradition in which Dittrich, Schlünz and the entire production in Darmstadt stand, in an amalgam of Theodor Adorno, the Eisler-Brecht School, and the Congress for Cultural Freedom (CCF).

In a noteworthy touch of truthful reporting, the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung (FAZ) reported on November 12, 2017, in an article titled, “The CIA and Culture: How to Steal the Big Words,” about the exhibition organized on the 50th anniversary of a scandal that erupted in 1967, when it was reported that the entire gigantic operation of the Congress for Cultural Freedom was a CIA-funded operation as part of the Cold War effort. The FAZ added an admission about the whole thing that was tantamount to sensational for that daily:

The worrying point is that the secret service did not simply promote sinister reaction [i.e. the right wing], but it helped achieve the breakthrough of that same left-wing liberalism that still forms the mainstream standard of Western intellectuals.

The Fidelio production in Darmstadt is, so to speak, the terminal moraine of this process. It began with the change in U.S. post-war politics. After Roosevelt’s untimely death, under whose leadership the United States was allied with the Soviet Union in the fight against fascism in the Second World War, the intellectually much smaller Harry Truman quickly came under Churchill’s influence. The latter, in his notorious Fulton, Missouri speech on March 5, 1946, ushered in the Cold War. Thus the forerunners of those elements in the U.S. security apparatus, which Eisenhower later warned were the military-industrial complex and which are often called the “deep state” for short today, gained the upper hand. The Cold War thus proclaimed—demanded—that the deep emotions linking Americans and Russians together through the war experience, culminating in the meeting of the armies on the Elbe River in Torgau, be replaced by an anti-Russian sentiment. A new image of the enemy had to be built up and the population’s entire axiomatics of thought had to be changed accordingly. For the United States, this meant changing the basic beliefs that had contributed to the support for Roosevelt’s policies. For Europe, and especially Germany, the roots of European humanist culture, which constituted its cultural identity despite twelve years of a reign of terror, had to be destroyed and replaced by a construct—the deconstruction of Classical culture.

The Evil of the Congress for Cultural Freedom

The instrument that was created for this purpose was the Congress for Cultural Freedom (CCF), a gigantic psychological warfare operation launched by secret service circles around Allen Dulles under the direction of Frank Wisner, then head of the Office for Political Coordination of the State Department. The CCF was later moved to the covert operations department. The operation officially lasted from 1950 to 1967, when the New York Times published on April 27 the news that the CCF was a CIA operation. That revelation became the biggest cultural scandal of the 20th century. The CCF operated in 35 countries and published 20 magazines, and the CIA controlled virtually every art exhibition and cultural event. At that time, there was virtually no writer, musician, painter, critic, or journalist in Europe who was not in some way connected to this project—some knowingly, some with no inkling.

The first Congress for Cultural Freedom convention, Berlin, 1950.

The first Congress for Cultural Freedom convention, Berlin, 1950.

The orientation of these cultural projects was essentially the same as that of the Frankfurt School, which was exiled to the United States during the National Socialist period and whose individual representatives were in the pay of the American secret services, such as Herbert Marcuse. In any case, the views of the Frankfurt School fit perfectly into the CCF’s program. Theodor Adorno, for example, defended the absurd and ignorant view that Friedrich Schiller’s idealism led directly to National Socialism, because he took a radical point of view. Therefore, Adorno claimed, beauty must be eradicated from art. In his essay “Cultural Criticism and Society,” written in 1949, his misanthropic view culminated in the much-quoted phrase: “To write a poem after Auschwitz is barbaric.”

Here again, there was nothing new about the Fidelio performance in Darmstadt. In the program notes, George Steiner expresses the exactly the same opinion:

Is it possible that classical humanism itself contains a radical failure in its tendency towards abstraction and aesthetic judgment? Can it be that mass murder and that indifference to the atrocities that abetted Nazism are not enemies or negations of civilization, but rather their hideous but natural accomplice?

What is expressed here in very clear terms is the psychological warfare carried out by the CIA-steered CCF, which was intended to eradicate the roots of the humanist identity of the German population, in favor of an Anglo-American cultural value scale.

To restate the point concisely: There can be no greater contrast than that between the sublime image of man presented in humanism and Classical art, and the barbaric image of man of the National Socialists. The Classical image of man sees man as being good in principle, as the only creature endowed with reason, who is able, through aesthetic education, to develop the potential within himself to a harmonious whole, to a beautiful character, as Wilhelm von Humboldt expressed it. Classical works of art in poetry, the visual arts, and music celebrate this beautiful humanity, and inspire in turn the creative powers of the readers, viewers, and listeners.

In contrast, the National Socialists’ image of man, with its blood-and-soil ideology, is based on a racist, chauvinistic, and Social Darwinist conception of the superiority of the “Aryan” race. To claim that because both the classics and National Socialism occurred in Germany, there is an inner connection between these diametrically opposed ideas, is just as absurd as to assert that the United States Constitution directly gave rise to the interventionist wars of the Bush and Obama Administrations, or that Joan of Arc’s convictions were the basis for French colonial policy. That claim actually came from the CIA’s devil’s kitchen, which included such recipes as “necessary lies” and “staunch denial” since at least the time of the CCF. In the recent period, the world has again been treated to an ample taste of them in the ongoing coup against President Trump by British intelligence in cooperation with the “deep state.”

The question of how it was possible to go from the ideal of the German classics to the abyss of Nazi rule, is one of the most important questions there is. To answer it, one has to consider the entire history of ideas from the Romantics’ attack on the classics, and the dissolution of the classic form it began to spawn, to the beginning of cultural pessimism, which set in with the Conservative Revolution in response to the ideas of 1789 and the political restoration under the Congress of Vienna, down to Schopenhauer and Nietzsche, the youth movement prior to World War I, and finally to World War I and its consequences.

Inducing Cultural Pessimism

Inducing cultural pessimism was also the goal of various music projects of the CCF. In 1952, it held a month-long music festival in Paris titled: “Masterpieces of the 20th Century,” during which over 100 symphonies, concerts, operas, and ballets of more than seventy 20th-century composers were performed. The Boston Symphony, which was to play a leading role in other CCF projects, opened the festival with a more-than-strange performance of Stravinsky’s Sacre du Printemps (Rite of Spring). Other pieces were performed from the atonalists Ar­nold Schoenberg (one of Adorno’s teachers) and Alban Berg, as well as Paul Hindemith, Claude Debussy, and Benjamin Britten, to name but a few. Further conferences for the propagation of atonal and twelve-tone music followed in Prato and Rome, which were exclusively devoted to avant-garde music. At all of these well-funded events, it was taken for granted that everyone would pretend to enjoy ugly music.

Theodor Adorno

Theodor Adorno

The Darmstadt Summer Courses for New Music, which were also supported by the American military government and the CCF, performed Schoenberg, Anton Webern, and Béla Bartók. Lecturers such as Adorno, Olivier Messiaen, and John Cage gave lectures on their music theory. In an official assessment of these courses, Ralph Burns, head of the Office of Military Government, United States (OMGUS) Cultural Affairs Branch’s “Review of Activities,” wrote:

It was generally conceded that much of this music was worthless and had better been left unplayed. The over-emphasis on twelve-tone music was regretted. One critic described the concerts as the “triumph of Dilettantism.”

The issue here is not about stopping anyone from composing or listening to atonal or twelve-tone music, or other forms of avant-garde music. To each his own taste. The point is, that the idea of the equality of all tones of the tempered chromatic scale massively reduces the much higher degrees of freedom flowing from the polyphonic harmonic and countrapuntal composition, as it was developed from Bach to Hadyn, Mozart, Beethoven, Schubert, Schumann, and Brahms. It eliminates the ambiguity of the notes and the relationships between the keys, and the possibility of enharmonic confusion: Motivführung is a form of composition that, out of a single musical idea, develops further themes, movements, and ultimately the entire composition. This technique of composition, as elaborated and rigorously demonstrated in various master classes by Norbert Brainin, the first violinist of the Amadeus Quartet, was developed into greater complexity and perfection from Haydn’s “Russian” quartets Op. 33, to Mozart’s “Haydn” quartets, and then to Beethoven’s late quartets.

Given the heights that Classical composition had achieved with Beethoven, so-called modern music, if it throws these principles out the window—and there are undoubtedly good modern compositions—represents a decline comparable to reducing an anti-entropically developing universe of two trillion galaxies known so far, to a flat earth.

Classical Music Ennobles

Virtually all truly creative people, from Confucius to Albert Einstein, recognized and used the effects of good or Classical music to foster their own creative abilities and the aesthetic ennoblement of the population. Confucius rightly observed that the state of a country can be seen in the quality of its music. Immersion in the works of great Classical composers opens the deepest access to the creative faculties of the human soul and spirit. Where else, other than in Classical music, can one strengthen and deepen the passion needed to look beyond one’s own concerns and to address the great objects of humanity? Or where can one educate the sensibility needed to fulfill Schiller’s demand, as stated in his speech on universal history:

A noble longing must glow within us to add from our own resources our contribution to the rich legacy of truth, morality and freedom, which we have received from former ages, and must deliver richly increased to the ages to come; and to fasten to this imperishable chain, which winds through all the generations of men, our own fleeting existence.

It is precisely this emotionality of love, as expressed in the Finale of Fidelio, love for one’s spouse, love for humanity, and the idea of freedom in necessity, the idea of fulfilling one’s duty with passion, and thereby becoming free, that Schiller defines as the qualities of his ideal of the beautiful soul and of genius. It is the quintessence of the entire aesthetic method of the classics and of Friedrich Schiller in particular: “It is through beauty that one achieves freedom.”

This notion of freedom is what all the proponents of Regietheater, disharmonious music, and postmodern deconstruction attack, because it goes against their liberal concept of “freedoms,” rather than freedom.

Therefore, they dip unrestrainedly into the mothballed box of Brechtian alienation effects: interruptions, film clips, banners, cameras pointed to the audience, etc., so as to “shock” the viewers out of their habits of hearing and thinking. What came out of that in Darmstadt was a mixture of “Clockwork Orange” (recall the violence-ridden atrocity from Stanley Kubrick, accompanied by Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony), and the intellectual depth of pop star Helene Fischer. When Helene Fischer, in a red latex outfit and with orgiastic movements, belts out her song “Tell Me, Do You Feel That?” to an enthralled audience, it’s about as subtle as when the question, “Does it move you?” lights up the stage in large neon letters during the entire Finale of Fidelio. Obviously, the director Dittrich thinks the intellectually challenged audience needs to be awakened with a two-by-four. On top of that came the previously mentioned bombardment of deafening noise from the instrumentalists and chorus members scattered throughout the opera house.

The audience expressed its thanks for the din with a tormented mini-applause. If the goal of the staging was to summon the audience to political action in the present or to open contemporary music to a “broader audience” (Dittrich), one has to say in both cases: Mission failed. The well-known (to German speakers) “Hurz” skit by Hape Kerkeling describes quite aptly the reaction of most viewers, who have apparently grown accustomed for much too long to the outrageous demands of Regietheater and to the CCF’s cultural war, which is still ongoing.

Finally, a quote is in order from Alma Deutscher, who really can compose: “If the world is so ugly, why should we make it even uglier with ugly music?”

Before the example of Annette Schlünz is followed and other compositions of classical music are “raped,” in the spirit of Hans Neuenfels, this review should serve to launch a debate in the year of Beethoven on how to defend the classics against such assaults.

Celebrate This Year of Beethoven!

This Year of Beethoven, which will feature performances of many of the master’s compositions not only in Germany, but around the world, offers a wonderful opportunity for us to recall our better cultural tradition in Germany, to resist the moral decline of the past decades, and to find within ourselves, by consciously listening to Beethoven’s music, the inner strength to have our own creativity come alive.

The world is now in the midst of an epochal change, in which the era dominated by the Atlantic countries is clearly coming to an end, and the focus of development is shifting to Asia, where there are many nations and peoples who are very proud of their civilizations, and nourish their classical culture. Some of these civilizations are more than 5,000 years old. If Europe has anything to contribute to shaping in a humanistic spirit the new paradigm emerging in the world, then it is our lofty culture of the Renaissance and the Classics.

Many scientists, artists, and people appreciative of Germany all over the world have been wondering for some time now what is wrong with the Germans, that they have distanced themselves so much from being a people of poets and thinkers. If we let the Year of Beethoven be so ruined, then Germany will likely be written off for good as a cultured nation.

More discussion of this subject is needed and welcome.

[fn1] Regietheater, or “Directors Theater,” is a mode of performance of Classical drama and opera, whereby the director arbitrarily imposes modern (and usually degenerate) costumes and staging upon the production, thereby ripping the work out of its true historical context and ironies, and degrading the audience, the performers, and the composer himself.

[fn2] See Friedrich Schiller’s poem, “Die Kraniche des Ibykus” (“The Cranes of Ibycus”). Full text available here.

Page 7 of 8First...678