Thursday, 22 September 2011

Alas, more vindictiveness towards LPO and now OAE musicians...

What a pity that the Daily Telegraph, which today published an excellent letter, in which many signatories protest at the LPO suspensions, should also now publish, albeit only as a blog item, a call (click here) for the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment to follow suit. The piece is so riddled with errors and general offence, and is so often lacking in logical coherence (basic, let alone dialectical), that it is probably not worthy of further comment, but here are just a few points immediately worth making:

  • ' Would they ['the Lefty [sic] music establishment] have responded with equal outrage had the orchestral players been suspended for attacking the Simon Bolivar Youth Orchestra [etc.] ...?' Leaving aside the question of how many of us calling upon the LPO management to reverse its position could claim membership of any 'establishment', the answer is of course, 'yes'. The issue at hand is not whether we agree with the call from the 'LPO Four' and many others to cancel the Israel Philharmonic Prom. (For what it is worth, I was not at all in agreement with the call to boycott, and I know that many others were not.) It is the suspension of musicians as a consequence merely of having identified themselves as members of the LPO, without any implication that they were speaking on its behalf. I should have the same view no matter what the content of their letter to The Independent. 'Attack', moreover, is a problematical word to have employed, since it might well be read to implying a connection, when there was none, between LPO and OAE members signing the letter and the protests that subsequently took place in the Royal Albert Hall.
  •  'the East-Western Divan, whose Arab members represent some of the most vile regimes on the planet'? No, they do not represent any regime: that is part of the whole point of the orchestra. Indeed, many of the young Arab musicians experience great difficulty as a consequence of their membership of this inspiring project. Moreover, but a passing acquaintance with Goethe might have informed our writer that the organisation is called the West-Eastern Divan Orchestra.
  • ' Orchestral managements, it seems, are being forced into a corner. No longer will they be able to censure players who publicly associate their brands with offensive or extremist Left-wing views. But Right-wing ones?' And why should they censure players on account of their political opinions, 'offensive or extremist', or otherwise? As for referring to orchestras as 'brands', that is not a conception I or anyone else I know holds of music-making, whether professional or otherwise.
  • 'It's not as if the management is short of reasons to take action: defamation of the company name, demeaning the company by behaving in a discriminatory fashion, talking to the media without consent etc.' So an orchestral musician is a slave, who may not speak to 'the media without consent'?
  • 'The OAE, it seems, is willing to associate itself with discriminatory views against Israel and Israelis.' Given earlier talk of 'defamation', the orchestra in question may wish to pursue that claim further.
  • The mention of anti-Semitism deserves to be treated with contempt, not least given the high proportion, were one inclined to measure it, of Jewish support for the musicians. A classic attempt (which, in a mirror image of the language used here, would doubtless be dubbed 'right-wing extremist') to close off discussion by cynically invoking the dread word should not be permitted to succeed. And no, these are not 'self-hating Jews' or self-hating anyone-elses, another classic, cynical response to such objections.


TP said...

It's Igor Toronyi-Lalic. Can't really expect much from him.
Have you ever read his concert reviews?!...

Jonny said...

Yes. Mr. Toronyi-Lalic is a joke. This is someone who has previously compared Pollini to Hosni Mubarak:

Mark Berry said...

As comparisons go, 'bizarre' barely begins to describe that one. For what it's worth, I thought rather differently of that magnificent concert:

mangofantasy said...

What a nasty prejudiced blogpost from Toronyi-Lalic, and your critique is spot on. Unfortunately typical of people with a fixed partisan position pro- or anti- Israel, who see the world through a filter of political obsession.

Evan Tucker said...

Mark. I do think that your passion with regard to this matter is commendable and not at all misplaced. But I think one has to give Igor Toronyi-Lalic at least a bit of credit. When he says that few would speak up for those musicians censured for right-wing views, he is absolutely correct.

No musician eminence was at pains to defend Reginald Goodall's fascist views, even when he was clearly blackballed from conducting at Covent Garden during the Solti years. And as easy as it would be for a Hebrew speaking former resident of Israel like me to applaud that, I hardly think any public statement of his was more objectionable than people touting El Sistema, bankrolled by the oppression of the Chavez regime, as the best model for classical music.

It is admirable to defend these musicians, who should never have been suspended. But to speculate, as you have, that it's an attempt to appease 'Jewish sponsors' is to cross a highly dubious line. It's one thing to speculate about unfair prejudice, it's another to publicly deal in prejudiced tropes in response. And I think Daniel Barenboim would agree with me.

Mark Berry said...

Evan, thank you for your comment. I'm a little puzzled though. First, I said I actually disagreed with the aim of the letter to The Independent. Whatever my views on the political question, which I really don't want to go into here, I do not wish to sign up to cultural boycotts.

More importantly, and I really think I ought to say something about this, lest there be any further misunderstandings, I do not know where your claim about 'Jewish sponsors' comes from. There is an issue, I believe, concerning donors and supporters, but that is not something I have addressed in any of these postings, partly because some of the information I have been given I have been asked not to pass on. Nor have I mentioned their religious or racial affiliations, if any, about which I am not qualified to speak.

EC said...

I clicked on your link, I read Igor Toronyi-Lalic, and I clicked the x on the tab. Perhaps I'll read it tomorrow if it's a slow Friday.

If you have read anything the man writes, you surely can't take him seriously. Perhaps he has interesting points every now and then, but they are always so shrouded in Lang Lang-like histrionics. Hard to take seriously a writer who writes with the primary goal of seeking attention through extremes rather than making intelligent and well reasoned arguments. The Telegraph should really find a better contributor - it can't be that difficult!

Evan Tucker said...

I certainly did not confuse the letter in the Independent with the letter in the Guardian, which are about two very distinct sentiments. Your opposition to a cultural boycott is quite commendable and I can only wish that more people would be reasonable about the issue. I meant your lending your signature to the letter in the Guardian, which I view as an admirable statement of principle. The LPO suspension, regardless of my views on the matter, is an infringement on free speech that must be condemned.

However, I must note that on September 15th you wrote with regard to this matter:

"I cannot help but wonder whether political and/or financial (donor?) pressures have been involved."

As it happens, I completely mis-remembered that you did not mention anything about 'jewish' in the donor question. And in all seriousness, I apologize for having misrepresented you so clearly. But even so, there is an implication about 'donor pressure' which is, in my view at least, unmistakeable and ugly. Albeit perhaps unintentional. Those of my view are perhaps over-sensitive to these questions, but at least in some cases that sensitivity has been earned.

In any event, my guess is that the suspension had nothing to do with the LPO's donors and everything to do with their close relationship with Zubin Mehta. How can the lifetime music director of the Israel Philharmonic continue to conduct the LPO when their members speak against his orchestra without censure? I ask that without an opinion or agenda, only to state a reality of the matter.

Mark Berry said...

Thank you: I hadn't thought about it from the Mehta angle, which so far as I'm aware, no one has really mentioned. I don't know how long it is since he has actually conducted the LPO; my memory may be playing tricks, but I don't recall a recent concert.

When I wrote on 15 September, I was merely speculating. Since then, I have heard more from various sources about some of the internal pressures. I hope this doesn't sound disingenuous, but I have been asked, at least for the moment, not to pass on some of that information and must respect such requests. It seems clear, however, unless I have been entirely misinformed by a number of people in a position to know, that some financial supporters have played a role in urging this policy: a situation I should deplore no matter what the policy, whether concerning employment, programming, or anything else.