Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Irrational anti-Semitism

Barbara Tuchman

By reading the French translation of a commentary on the Book of Exodus(1) published a few years ago by an American rabbi belonging to Reformed Judaism, I was struck by a sidebar entitled "The causes of anti-Semitism." The author quotes the American historian Barbara Tuchman (1912-1989, Pulitzer Prize 1963), who identifies three "principles" at the source of anti-Semitism:

1. "It is vain to expect logic – that is to say, a reasoned appreciation of enlightened self-interest" when it comes to anti-Semitism.
2. Appeasement is futile. "The rule of human behavior here is that yielding to an enemy’s demands does not satisfy them but, by exhibiting a position of weakness, augments them. Its does not terminate hostility but excites it."
3. ""Anti-Semitism is independent of its object. What Jews do or fail to do is not the determinant. The impetus comes out of the needs of the persecutors and a particular political climate."

These principles, if already old - they had been published in Newsweek on February 3, 1975 - seem particularly insightful and well adapted to the current context. It is a distressing statement because we experience how difficult it is to convince or to fight using ideas. It is also a warning and an invitation not to give in an inch on the principles and not to lower one’s guard...

(1) H. J. Fields, A Torah Commentary for Our Times, vol. 2: Exodus and Leviticus. New York, Union for Reform Judaism, 1990.


Friday, May 1, 2015

Do you love Beethoven?

I just finished reading an exciting book: "Do you love Beethoven?"(*). It is written in French and I do not think that it is translated into English. I posted an article about it in the French version of my blog. This book overcomes many prejudices about classical music. For my part, I must say that I love it every day a little more: Bach, Beethoven, Mozart, Schubert, Dvořàk, Richard Strauss, Mahler…

Listen to these two pieces. First a passage – the Cavatina – of one of Beethoven’s last quartets (Op. 130, n°13), played by the Quartetto Italiano, an old performance but played by outstanding musicians. Then, «Wo die schonen Trompeten blasen» (Where the Fine Trumpets Blow), from Des Knaben Wunderhorn (The Child’s Enchanted Horn), a work of Gustav Mahler. It is a loving dialogue on the background of war, splendidly sung by Lucia Popp, under the direction of Leonard Bernstein.


(*) Bruno ORY-LAVOLLÉE, Aimez-vous Beethoven? Éloge de la musique classique, Ed. Le Passeur, 2015, 254 p.