Interview with Charles Krauthammer about politics and MUSIC

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Chanan
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Interview with Charles Krauthammer about politics and MUSIC

Post by Chanan » Thu Jun 11, 2009 1:08 pm

The Jerusalem Post Internet Edition

The unfashionable Charles Krauthammer
Jun. 10, 2009
hilary leilea krieger, JPost Correspondent, Washington , THE JERUSALEM POST

Charles Krauthammer, the Washington Post columnist who quit a job as the chief resident in psychiatry at Massachusetts General Hospital in the 1970s to find work sharing his views with a global audience (his op-eds are carried in The Jerusalem Post among other publications), does not want to talk about himself or his political opinions.

Instead, the 59-year-old Pulitzer Prize winner wants to discuss the music program he and his wife recently started to try to revive and preserve Jewish music that has been lost to the masses. "Pro Musica Hebraica," as it's called, just finished its first season to critical acclaim, and Krauthammer is looking to raise awareness about the project as it gears up for its second year.

He points to many styles and eras that are neglected these days - the victim of times both banal and horrific. Though the first season focused on Eastern European 20th-century themes, Krauthammer would like to present a wide variety of works in coming concerts, including Ladino, Dutch cantorial and baroque Jewish pieces - the latter of which, he noted, "many people think is an oxymoron: baroque Jewish, what does that apply to, Jackie Mason?"

So if submitting to an interview is what he has to do, so be it. And, agreeing to submit, he does so good-naturedly. The sharp, commanding strokes of a pen that doesn't refrain from taking the powers-that-be to task - a recent column explained why he rejected an invitation to a White House stem cell bill signing ceremony - belie a warm, amiable, humorous person. Of course, for all Krauthammer's strong neoconservative convictions, tempered though they might be with support for abortion rights and other socially liberal positions, he was raised in Canada.

Despite his preference for talking about musical rather than prose compositions, he can't quite escape the writer in him as he speaks, editing sentences as he utters them. His foundation, he dictates, "is a very - you should add a lot of 'very's - a very, very small foundation." In addition to sponsoring the music project, it also supports a Washington-area Jewish high school program, Shorashim, whose mission is to teach students who don't go to Jewish day schools Jewish texts. The common link is Krauthammer's devotion to his Jewish heritage and its preservation, both in a score and on the printed page.

How did you first get interested in this project?

My wife had the idea five, six years ago. It came from two thoughts. One is, when people hear "Jewish music," they think Israeli folk-dancing - "Hava Negila" - they think of liturgical music, they think of Kol Nidre, they might think of klezmer and that's it. It turns out there's a great, rich tradition of classical Jewish music people just don't know about.

The other thing is that Jews, in America and around the world, are extremely supportive of music philanthropically and through playing, producing, composing. [Yet] when it comes to something that has the word "Jewish" on it, there's some sense that it would be too parochial to get involved. And that's absurd. Ever other nationality or ethnicity proudly supports and encourages its own national culture; many Jews find it too parochial. So we wanted to say, here it is. Much of it is at the level of the great music of the world, and we want it to be recognized for what it is.

Why haven't these pieces received more prominence in the past?

Some have come and gone with the historical genre they were part of. [With] Jewish baroque music, there's nothing particular that ended that. Baroque had its fashion for everybody, then it came and went. Some haven't gone: Sephardic music is there, just Western audiences haven't heard it. Obviously Ladino and Sephardic music has declined because of the change in Jewish demographics, where Jews don't live in the Muslim world after 1948... We're not necessarily making the claim that these are great enough to be sustained on their own. We'll let people judge and see whether they feel that it is at a high enough level that it should be learned and transmitted and continued.

At one of your recent concerts, you defined Jewish music broadly as based on a sensibility rather than DNA. The lineup included the non-Jewish Dmitry Shostakovich's so-called "Jewish finale," itself one of the only pieces that featured recognizably Jewish melodies. What, then, did you mean by a Jewish sensibility?

It's music that's either consciously or unconsciously drawn from the folk, the klezmer, the liturgical, the shtetl. Shostakovich, interestingly, absorbed that through his fellow musicians without having experienced it firsthand.

In music it would be drawn from the music of the folk. In literature it's an interesting question, what's a Jewish novel? Again, it has to do with whether there's an attachment to or a feeling of or a concern with the Jewish experience and Jewish destiny, though that's to put it very broadly and bluntly and crudely.

We're not going to do Felix Mendelssohn. He was genetically Jewish, but he was so consciously Christian, and he tried to be European. That's fine - he's one of the great composers and he's in the European canon - but he's not particularly of interest to us simply because he happened to be genetically Jewish.

Can you talk a little bit about your own Jewish upbringing and sense of Jewishness, and how that influences you? I assume it's a factor in this particular project.

I grew up in a Modern Orthodox home. I went to Jewish day school right through high school, so half of my day was spent speaking Hebrew from age six to 16. I studied thousands of hours of Talmud. My father thought I didn't get enough Talmud at school, so I took the extra Talmud class at school and he had a rabbi come to the house three nights a week. One of those nights was Saturday night, so in synagogue Saturday morning my brother and I would pray very hard for snow so he wouldn't be able to come on Saturday night and we could watch hockey night in Canada. That's where I learned about prayer.

That didn't seem to you to be a prayer that was likely to go unanswered?

Yeah, I was giving it a shot to see what side God was on.

And what did you determine?

It rarely snowed.

Despite being raised Orthodox, you said in a recent column that you're not religious.

Rabbi David Hartman, who runs the Hartman Institute [in Jerusalem], was actually at McGill the years I was a student there, and I took his courses on Maimonides. That had a big influence on me in the sense that I was going away from my Jewish upbringing, thinking of it as narrow and parochial, and when I was introduced to Maimonides, it was just sort of at the highest level of world philosophy, Aristotelian philosophy applied to Judaism. I realized that Jewish culture was not just not a Sunday afternoon lecture. It belonged with a great secular culture that I admired as a student. So that kind of reinforced my Jewishness even as I became irreligious.

Was becoming less religious connected to that feeling of Judaism being parochial?

That was not the reason. It was simply a matter of just applying my thinking to these questions of God, a historical God and a God who intervenes in prayer, and I came up short. It was no great epiphany. It was no great disappointment. It had nothing to do with my being [paralyzed in a diving accident] when I was 22. I was already way, way gone by the time I was 18 and 19. It was simply an intellectual conclusion, and I've been basically unchanged for 50 years. I don't make any great claims for it. I would not proselytize my own agnosticism. It's just where I've come to. If I'm honest with myself, I'm not religious but I am very Jewish in the sense that I feel a tremendous duty to the past and the majesty of Jewish culture, to not let it disappear... As for my own practice, it's fairly minimal, but I go on the required days. I go to Yizkor, those kinds of things. I once described to a friend my Jewishness - I said, I'm a Jewish Shinto. I believe in ancestor worship. That's the heart of my Judaism.

What about your connection to Israel?

As you see in my writing, it's very strong. That would be a third example of my connection to Jewish history. I've always been a Zionist, and I believe with utter conviction in the justice of the cause, which makes my writing about it clear and direct. [Defending Zionism] is pretty much out of fashion these days. But to me it's extremely important, in and of itself as a just cause and also in the context of America and how it looks at itself as, among other things, a champion for freedom around the world.

You said Zionism's not in fashion. Is that why there's all this criticism of Israel, because it's not trendy, or because of something deeper?

I think the world is tiring of Israel and of Jews. And Jews, secular Jewish intellectuals are tiring more than most. It used to be they would criticize Israeli actions. That was the norm in the '70s, '80s. Now it's come down the legitimacy of a Jewish state.

It's in part as a result of the disastrous policies Israel has followed since 1993 with Oslo. But it's in part the shallowness in these people who are not quite ready to stand up to the fashions of the times, to the pressures from polite society, from elite society, from various national establishments against Israel. It's far easier to join the cocktail party set. If you deplore Israel, it gets you through the day a lot more easily.

In Europe I think it is that the era of Holocaust guilt is over. It was a generational phenomenon. Now that it's over, Europe is reverting to its natural anti-Semitism - not with the virulence obviously that we saw in the early 20th century, but the norm for the 19 centuries before that - Jews as alien, Jews as troublesome, Jews as not quite trustworthy. And it's writ large for Israel. The Jewish people have lost Europe. Israel's lost Europe. The one place it hasn't been lost is America, where there are tens of millions of Americans who are strongly Zionist and many other who are sympathetic. One of the things I try to do is make the case, which I find a very easy case to make, to oppose the fashionable anti-Israeli trend.

How do you feel about being labeled a neoconservative, which is decidedly not in fashion now that a new political guard has taken over Washington?

Irving Kristol, who is the father of neoconservatism, [long] resisted the term because he considered himself the true heir to American liberalism, while liberals were the ones who deviated to European social democracy or into infantile leftism or whatever. He gave up and decided, "What the hell! They're going to call me neoconservative, we'll be neoconservatives." So I don't really mind the label any more than he did.

Neoconservatism is deeply out of fashion now, which is fine with me. We're the root cause of every evil on earth, including the rise of the Red River in South Dakota and Minnesota, but I'm very comfortable with its basic views of the world.

Does it matter that if you carry this label, it might turn people off or make them less receptive to your ideas from the get-go?

It's true. There's no way around it. It's like being Jewish. There are some people who are going to think that I'm a genetically programmed agent of Israel infiltrating America. I'm not going to lose any sleep over that.

So as both a "neocon" and a Jew, how did it feel being in fashion briefly?

Maybe that was the more disturbing moment? Yeah, it actually is. I don't take the fashions very seriously one way or the other. I can accept White House invitations and I can go without White House invitations. I really don't care. Post-9/11 was exciting because there was an administration that was open to conservative ideas and one had to think very hard about what to do, and that's a challenge. It's a lot easier when the other guys are in power and all you've got to do is skeet shoot - blow them out of the sky. Writing in the opposition is a lot easier.

I'm perfectly at ease with the Democrats, the liberals in power. I think we should have a rotation of power. It makes the other side have to act responsibly, as we saw with Obama on Afghanistan [recently boosting forces there].

That's why I can take it either way. In fashion, out of fashion, it hasn't affected my readership, which has grown without stop since 1985. With the newspaper industry shrinking, I think I'm in 209 newspapers as of today. So people obviously want to hear this point of view, and whether they're reading me in the White House or not is not of terrible importance.

In case they are reading you in the White House, what are your thoughts about moving forward in Israel? You're both critical of the Oslo Accords but supportive of a two-state solution, so what do you suggest?

The damage done by Oslo is incalculable but it's irreversible, so one has to go forward. I opposed it from the day I was on the White House lawn, and I opposed it regretfully, hoping that I was wrong. It turned out, very painfully, that I was right. It just did terrible damage. Now Israel's in a position where the peace process is a farce. I'm not against pretending to be involved in a peace process, as we did in Annapolis. I supported the Annapolis conference precisely because I knew that it would go nowhere, so it looks as if everyone's involved and we're all very peaceful-thinking.

But the Middle East is not complicated to this extent. I mean, it has tremendous nuances and curlicues and all that, but it's very simple: As long as the Arab states and Palestinians do not accept a Jewish state, there will not be peace. And on the day they make a collective decision to accept a Jewish state, there will be peace within weeks. It will be a technical matter. And everything else is commentary.

Right now there's no hope for a peace process. Israel withdrew land for peace - they gave land in Lebanon, they got rockets; they gave back the land in Gaza, they got rockets. They give back the land in the West Bank, they'll get rockets and the shutting of Ben-Gurion Airport. I mean everybody knows this, it's simple.

That process is going nowhere until the Palestinians change. And that process might not change in my lifetime, in which case Israel simply has to maintain the status quo as long as it can, and make sure Israel and the West Bank are divided so that there's no one-state solution.

Obviously Bibi [Binyamin Netanyahu] and the Likud will accept a two-state solution - there's no other way out. There's no other way to go, but the Palestinians haven't given up the dream of destroying Israel. That's what the Gaza war was about, that's what the Lebanon war was about. These aren't theoretical propositions; these are realities of what the Arabs say.

So I think Israel needs a very strong defense, it needs the fence, it needs American support. It defeated the second intifada, which everyone said was impossible, and that's where we'll be for years until the Palestinians decide they'll take half a loaf, which has been offered to them since 1947.

How do you see the ultimate resolution?

Everyone knows what the resolution will be. It will be along the lines of the Clinton-Barak proposal in 2000 at Camp David. And I can give you the terms of the agreement on the back of an envelope right now. It will be 5 percent of the West Bank, which will involve some of the larger Israeli settlements, which Israel will take. Israel will give Palestinians equivalent territory out of Israel proper. There will be a Palestinian state, a Jewish state, and Jerusalem will be divided along the lines Ehud Barak offered, and that's what it's going to look like.

Is that an acceptable position to you?

It's a heartbreaking position to me, and I think Ehud Barak did terrible damage to Israel in 2000 in offering the division of Jerusalem because it set a norm, it destroyed a consensus in the West of an undivided Jerusalem. It was US policy until then, not only Israeli policy - but how is the United States going to be more Catholic than the pope? So that's the new reality. It would be heartbreaking, but it would be acceptable. Peace is the ultimate objective. If that's what it takes, that's what it takes.

You said a couple of years ago that the right man to lead Israel was then opposition leader Binyamin Netanyahu. Now that he's prime minister, do you still believe that?

Between '96 and '99, the total number of Israeli dead from terrorism was in the 30s. Given what followed, the thousand Jews killed in the second intifada, I would call that very successful. He also gave away very little. [Yitzhak] Rabin and [Shimon] Peres and Barak gave away a lot and got nothing but war in return... I thought Netanyahu was pretty successful in basically holding the line.

I supported [Ariel] Sharon's withdrawal from Gaza, even though Bibi opposed it. People think in retrospect they should not have withdrawn, I think they should have. So I was pretty much a supporter of Sharon and Kadima and the vision that they had, but the Palestinians have decided the Kadima approach was dead by their reaction to the Gaza withdrawal, so that's dead. So we want someone who won't give away the store for dreams, which is what Peres and Rabin did. That happens to be Bibi, and I'm not too happy about the way his cabinet shaped up, but that's a function of the dysfunctional Israeli political system. I don't think he would have chosen his cabinet that way had he had the free hand of an American president.

How do you think he'll manage with the new American president?

I don't know. I think it could be rough. I think [Avigdor] Lieberman as foreign minister is going to be very, very difficult for Israel.

How so, and are those attitudes towards Lieberman legitimate or based on misperceptions?

The fact that he is so reviled in the West, whether for legitimate reasons or not, in and of itself is a reason why he shouldn't be foreign minister, even if it's not just. You don't start out an administration if you can help it with a foreign minister who is exceedingly unpopular in the capitals to which you're about to send him.

And what about the relationship between Obama and Netanyahu themselves?

I'm not that sure that that in and of itself is a recipe for disagreement or unpleasantness. I just don't know, but I don't think there's any reason to assume that.

You said that it's important Israel receive strong support from America. Are you confident that Obama will provide that support?

I don't know and I don't know that anybody does. We've elected a very mysterious man in many, many ways - the most unknown man ever to be elected president of the United States, in the sense of people's experience with him and his own experience. So we have no idea.

Should we have some ominous music playing in the background now?

No. I mean, who would have predicted that George W. Bush would have been the most pro-Israel president since Harry Truman? There wasn't much in his background ever to suggest that, and yet he was. I really don't know what Obama's policies will be. It's hard to read it from his advisers. Some are pretty strongly pro-Israel. Others are less so.

What do you think about his policy of outreach to Iran?

I'm skeptical that these overtures will work, but let's see what he brings home.

Do you think it could work?

I don't think anything will come of it, but then I'm a cynic.

But theoretically, do think engagement can work?

You go the extra mile so that you're in position to do stuff afterward. Will he do stuff afterward? I doubt it.

What if Israel does?

If Israel does, it will be a very difficult day. All hell will break loose.

What about the American response?

We'll get blamed one way or the other, though I'm sure we will not be involved.

Do you see it playing out the way it reportedly did under George W. Bush, with him telling Israel to hold off?

We'll give them the red light, but if Israel feels an existential threat, it will do what it did in '67. Johnson gave Israel the red light as well, and they went ahead and attacked Egypt. They had to. I think the Israelis feel the same way. They just better succeed, like in '67. If you're going to go against the American red light, you better make sure you get the job done; '67 would have been disaster otherwise. This will be a disaster otherwise too.

Looking back over the last eight years, how do you feel about the positions you took, many of which are criticized today? You said you still think disengagement was the right thing to do. What about the invasion of Iraq? Is there anything you need to rethink?

There's always a lot to rethink. Basically I think history will see that the Iraq war was worth it. I think it will look at the Iraq war the way we look at the Korean War, which claimed almost 10 times as many American lives: We didn't get everything that we wanted. It was much more costly than we had expected. But if Iraq continues on the current trajectory, it will end up as a strategic ally in the region, which should be a tremendous advance for the United states. So I think history will look at it with the same balanced but probably favorable view if that outcome is achieved.

I think Bush kept us safe for seven years and it was no accident. I think most of the measures he took were required. To the extent that we dismantle those, which I don't think we will actually, we'll be less safe. But we deeply undervalue the achievement of seven years of safety. No one expected it. Nobody expected six months without a second attack. In completely new, unplanned, ad hoc circumstances post-9/11, I think they did a good job.

So do the critics just have it wrong?

I think there's war-weariness... We didn't find the right general and the right strategy until late 2006. America has a history of not knowing what to do at the beginning of wars. Lincoln didn't find his general until three years in. If he hadn't, we'd be two different countries right now... The Iraq war, as tragic as it was, and terrible as it was, was one of those wars where we couldn't figure out the insurgency strategy and get it right until very late, and that's the reason people are so war-weary, and they are correct to be war-weary.

So none of the things we've seen these years made you rethink ideas or arguments?

Lest I seem unreflective and inflexible, the answer is no. The view of the world that basically led to [Ronald] Reagan's policies - the success of the Cold War, the basic response to 9/11, which is sort of parallel to that in seeing radical Islam as the equivalent of the great totalitarian enemies of the 20th century - I think is basically correct.

We can argue, I think we should argue, whether some of the tactics of counterinsurgency were correctly carried out, and there's no question that they were incorrectly, badly, tragically done in 2004, 5 and 6. But because the first three years of the Civil War were such a disaster it doesn't make you rethink the basic idea of the Civil War, which was to keep the union intact... The basic idea of trying to defeat radical Islam on the ground had to be done. You can't defeat it by cruise missiles and you can't do it by preaching. And if we succeed in creating this seed in Iraq which may actually be happening, it could have a profound effect on the evolution of the Middle East and that would be the ultimate answer to 9/11.

The reason I haven't changed my views is that no one has offered a remotely plausible alternative to answering the challenging of 9/11 and its origins. So when someone does I'll be willing to rethink it.

So when it comes to the current fashions - I'm too old to worry about fashion. I've worn a blue shirt on television every week for 20 years. No, I don't go too much with the fashions.

Where does that come from? Why don't you? So many columnists are trying to be one step ahead of what everyone thinks and says.

I think it's indicative of the fact that I spent seven years in medicine and I quit to do this, and it wasn't exactly an exercise in upward social mobility at the time. My father was scratching his head for years over why I would do it.

The only reason to do it is to say what you believe, and if you don't, it would have been pointless to do what I did. So you say what you believe and you really don't give a damn.

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Re: Interview with Charles Krauthammer about politics and MUSIC

Post by John F » Fri Jun 12, 2009 2:31 pm

Hmmm. Krauthammer dismisses Mendelssohn as not Jewish enough, but after that, I was looking for any reference to Jewish classical composers who wrote major works in their own tradition. Ernest Bloch, for example; his "Schelomo," "Baal Shem," and "Sacred Service" are only the best known of a substantial number of overtly and intensely Jewish pieces. Another Jewish composer is Darius Milhaud, who composed an opera about King David as a personal tribute to the State of Israel. Though both are pretty famous, their music isn't as often played these days as it used to be. But Krauthammer says nothing of Bloch, Milhaud, or others like them. Maybe he just doesn't know or care that much about classical music, or at least modern classical music. Or maybe it's that the interviewer didn't know enough to ask him.
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Re: Interview with Charles Krauthammer about politics and MUSIC

Post by jbuck919 » Fri Jun 12, 2009 2:45 pm

John F wrote:Hmmm. Krauthammer dismisses Mendelssohn as not Jewish enough, but after that, I was looking for any reference to Jewish classical composers who wrote major works in their own tradition. Ernest Bloch, for example; his "Schelomo," "Baal Shem," and "Sacred Service" are only the best known of a substantial number of overtly and intensely Jewish pieces. Another Jewish composer is Darius Milhaud, who composed an opera about King David as a personal tribute to the State of Israel. Though both are pretty famous, their music isn't as often played these days as it used to be. But Krauthammer says nothing of Bloch, Milhaud, or others like them. Maybe he just doesn't know or care that much about classical music, or at least modern classical music. Or maybe it's that the interviewer didn't know enough to ask him.
Not to mention Schoenberg. I suppose I shouldn't draw conclusions based on that omission, but I don't have much trouble drawing an inference from Krauthammer referring to European antisemitism as "natural" rather than "historic."

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Re: Interview with Charles Krauthammer about politics and MUSIC

Post by Corlyss_D » Fri Jun 12, 2009 10:22 pm

I found about the couple's Pro Musica Hebraica just yesterday when Agnes asked me a couple of questions about Krauthammer and his wife, Robyn, a recovering Aussie lawyer and local DC artist. I wondered how I missed it when I lived in DC being as I've been a huge fan of Sephardic music for donkey's years. Apparently they put the organization together after I left the area.

I guess neither John would cut Krauthammer any slack, since he seems to be the kind of staggeringly educated, professionally accomplished, highly influential, Jewish urban leading light that ought to play for their team. However, since the object of the society is to revive neglected music, neither Mendelssohn, nor Schoenberg, nor Bloch would qualify because they are hardly neglected.

Here's some looks the society's early efforts.


Post Columnist Starts Jewish Music Project
By Ezra Glinter
Published March 20, 2008, issue of March 28, 2008.

Charles Krauthammer knows his way around the written word. But next month, the Pulitzer Prize-winning Washington Post columnist and his wife, artist Robyn Krauthammer, will unveil a project devoted to the music note. Pro Musica Hebraica, a new Washington-based organization spearheaded by the couple, will be devoted to highlighting historically neglected works of Jewish art music as well as commissioning new works.

An inaugural concert will be held April 10 at the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, featuring renowned violinist Itzhak Perlman as well as performers from The Juilliard School of Music.

“We’re trying to open a window on music that’s been lost or neglected,” said Krauthammer, who added that a primary focus will be on efforts of late 19th- and early 20th-century composers whose work was neglected because of the Russian Revolution and the Holocaust. “Hopefully we’ll inspire people, young people, to try to do what these musicians did 100 years ago, which was to draw from their own traditions in a modern spirit to interpret it for a general audience.”

Krauthammer has a long history of involvement with Jewish cultural and educational institutions like Washington’s Shoresh Hebrew High School, where he was a founding board member. For the new musical venture, which is being supported almost entirely by The Krauthammer Foundation, he credits his wife, Robyn.

“She was aware of a musical tradition of Jewish art music… and thought that it would be a service to bring it to the general public and to the concert-going public,” he said in a recent interview with the Forward.

The inaugural concert will focus on the works of The St. Petersburg School, a group of early 20th-century Russian Jewish composers who attempted to create a nationalist school of Jewish music similar to other nationalistic cultural efforts of the time. The group is known as the Society for Jewish Folk Music, and members such as composers as Alexander Krein and Joel Engel combined Jewish folk influences with modern classical structures and techniques to create a new form of Jewish art music.

“Jewish composers were drawing on the tradition of shtetl music, liturgical music, folk music, trying to bring sort of a modern classical sensibility to it,” Krauthammer explained.

This isn’t the only effort of its kind. This year, James Conlon, music director of the Los Angeles Opera, has been reviving the works of composers affected by the Nazi regime for his project, Recovered Voices. But the two are hardly in competition. In fact, Conlon will bring his expertise to Pro Musica Hebraica as its artistic adviser.

Pro Musica Hebraica will be focusing not just on Holocaust era material but also on music from all eras that is distinctively Jewish. In the case of the Soviet composers who will fill the first concert, the Jewish content is mixed with newer ideas.

“What’s interesting about this music is that these were composers who were trying to draw on the folk sources but create what we would call modern classical music, which is to say, they wanted to blend traditional sounds with contemporary musical language,” added James Loefler research director of Pro Hebraica Musica.

Loefler, who is a professor of European Jewish history at the University of Virginia as well as a classically trained pianist, revealed the extent of Jewish classical music while studying at The Hebrew University of Jerusalem in the late 1990s, and later when he traveled on a Fulbright Fellowship to the former Soviet Union in 2003.

While the majority of the April concert will focus on historical material, it will also feature “The Dreams & Prayers of Isaac the Blind,” a 1994 composition by the Argentine Jewish composer Osvaldo Golijov.

Following the initial concert series, Pro Musica Hebraica hopes to expand its activities through educational programs as well as the commissioning of new works.

“We hope, first of all, to educate and to bring the music to the public,” Krauthammer said, “and then hopefully we’d like to commission works in the future. We’d like to support the study and performance of this music in conservatories and schools.”

Organizers and performers also hope that Pro Musica Hebraica will contribute to the current trend of globalizing classical music.

“Some of the most interesting composers are learning to tap other folk traditions, popular traditions, rock music, and weave these into their music, developing new sounds,” Loefler said. “Frankly, that’s the built-in advantage to Jewish musical expression: Jews are so connected to so many different cultures that they tap into them and influence them and are influenced by them.”
http://www.forward.com/articles/12988/


washingtonpost.com
Exploring a World Of 'Jewish Music'

By Anne Midgette
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, April 9, 2008; C05

Just what is "Jewish music," anyway? In some cases the answer is clear: liturgical music and Yiddish operetta; klezmer and Israeli pop. But in this realm of classical or art music, you run into all kinds of semantic debates. Is "Jewish music" music written by Jewish composers, including Bernstein's "West Side Story"? What about pieces written by non-Jewish composers, such as Bruch's "Kol Nidrei" or Ravel's "Kaddisch" or Dave Brubeck's oratorio "The Gates of Justice," recorded and released as part of the Milken Archive of American Jewish Music's initial offering of 50 CDs?

Stop asking already and just put it on. Operating on this principle, the new concert series Pro Musica Hebraica is presenting its first performance at the Kennedy Center's Terrace Theater tomorrow night, with musicians from the Juilliard School and Itzhak Perlman as a special guest. The series's ambitious and loosely defined goal is to present "Jewish music" -- until the first concert is over, the organizers are not going to commit definitely to anything more specific than that.

This first concert, however, has a particular focus. One reason Jewish art music is so hard to pin down is that it is a relatively new phenomenon. Neil Levin, artistic director of the Milken Archive (which is not affiliated with the series), postulates that "an important watershed in Jewish cultural history" was the founding, in 1908, of the Society for Jewish Folk Music in St. Petersburg, the first association devoted to collecting and promulgating Jewish musical traditions. And Pro Musica Hebraica's inaugural event celebrates the centenary of that watershed, presenting composers of this St. Petersburg school -- Joel Engel, Solomon Rosowsky, Alexander Krein -- whose works are all but forgotten.

"This is remarkable music," Robyn Krauthammer says, "and it should enter the lists as concert music."

This idea became a mission for Krauthammer, an Australian-born lawyer turned artist, after she heard some of the music at local synagogue concerts, "performed well and semi-well," she says. Accordingly, she and her husband, Charles Krauthammer, the provocative Washington Post political columnist, decided to use their small family foundation to fund a series in Washington. "I could see it needed to be lifted a notch, to concert level," she says.

One might assume the Krauthammers simply wrote a check or hosted a fundraiser. In fact, they rolled up their sleeves and set out to learn to put on a professional concert. At the end of four years, they have found a venue (the Kennedy Center), hired a research director (James Loeffler, an assistant professor at the University of Virginia whose specialty is the St. Petersburg school) and learned that if you want musicians who are willing to learn new, unfamiliar repertory, a music school is the best place to turn. Working with virtually no staff, responsible for every detail down to the catering, they were told there would be a table in the theater lobby where their staff could hand out VIP tickets. "So I look at Robbie," says Charles Krauthammer, laughing, "and say, 'Okay, which one of us is it going to be?' "

They have also enlisted sound professional partners, like their artistic adviser, the conductor James Conlon, whose own, not unrelated mission is to restore to the repertoire the music of composers suppressed by the Nazis. In planning Thursday's program, Conlon and Loeffler sought to create something at once arresting and crowd-pleasing. "We wanted to start," Loeffler says, "with something that we figured was the most original and distinctive part of what we can offer."

The emotional range is considerable, from Leo Zeitlin's "Eli Zion" (1914), once a popular showpiece for violinists, to a prescient 1943 piano trio by Mikhail Gnesin called "Requiem for Our Lost Children." There is even a nod to the present with "The Dreams and Prayers of Isaac the Blind," written by Osvaldo Golijov in 1994.

In 2006, a Jewish-themed series at New York's Central Synagogue fizzled out after a season. The picture has changed considerably since Herman Berlinski, a prolific composer and organist, led a flourishing series at Washington Hebrew Congregation in the 1960s that included secular works and a festival of contemporary sacred music. (Berlinski did meet with opposition to a program of Jewish composers for an organ recital in Tel Aviv in 1974; the organizers uninvited him, saying they wanted Bach and Handel, apparently oblivious to the irony of demanding German composers rather than Jewish ones.)

So as the Krauthammers test the waters, their flexibility may prove to be a strength. It is partly strategic; they decided not to seek new partners until they had proved themselves with the first concert. After that, their dreams are big, but their plans for two or more concerts a year remain vague.

"We want to graduate to orchestral performances, and an opera or two, and that will take big bucks," Robyn Krauthammer says, with eagerness that some might find naive. Sephardic music? Hollywood scores? Lectures at the Library of Congress? Bernstein? They are open to it all.

"I like to think of it as an open question," says Loeffler of the goal of the series, "exploring the theme of Jewishness and music, as opposed to defining it, circumscribing it, putting a label on it; because that's not the way art works. We're keeping it loose not only because of the music we're interested in, but also out of philosophical conviction."

Education -- training a new generation to appreciate this music -- is another point of the exercise. This is a cornerstone of Conlon's own philosophy. "I don't see how one can remain insensitive to the fact that there are many works, volumes of music, that we have not had the chance to hear, to integrate," he says. "More important than hearing it once is hearing it a second time."

His idea is that as musicians learn the work, it will be heard again and again, and assume the place in the repertory that it deserves. His hypothesis has yet to be proved, but it is a good thing to hope for. "If only a few of these compositions end up in the canon," Charles Krauthammer says, "it will be a great achievement."

© 2009 The Washington Post Company
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/co ... 02916.html


January/February 2009

Stewart Spread JEWISH ENTERPRISE
New Life for Lost Jewish Music

It was Robyn Krauthammer who came up with the idea for what was to become Pro Musica Hebraica—a project to revive forgotten Jewish classical music from a century ago. A lawyer turned painter and sculptor, Robyn converted to Judaism before her marriage to Charles Krauthammer, the influential conservative columnist. “She is more Jewish than I am,” Charles says, smiling at his wife. “She has a real love and feeling for it.”

Pro Musica Hebraica grew out of a conversation Robyn had with the cantor at the couple’s Maryland synagogue about lost Jewish music. “I was intrigued when he told us that the composer Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov criticized his Jewish students at the St. Petersburg Conservatory for not applying their own heritage to their music,” she says, “so they formed the St. Petersburg Society for Jewish Folk Music in 1908.”

Charles interjects: “Originally, they called it the Society for Jewish Music, but one of the tsar’s bureaucrats couldn’t imagine that Jews were capable of classical music, so he added ‘folk’ to the name.”

Most of this rich, passionate Jewish music was suppressed by the Communists when they came to power and was never performed. To rescue the repertoire from oblivion and bring it to the stage, the Krauthammers founded Pro Musica Hebraica in 2004. They began by recruiting James Loeffler, an assistant professor of European Jewish history at the University of Virginia, as research director. Loeffler combed through the archives of the former Soviet Union for unpublished manuscripts and recordings. “Ironically, much of the music survived because the Soviets saved all the paper, locking it up in benign neglect,” he says. “I was able to unlock it because there were librarians who held on to it for decades.”

The St. Petersburg Society, Loeffler explains, gave rise to what would become known as Jewish art music—music that deliberately melded Western and Russian classical music with Hasidic melodies, Yiddish folk songs and synagogue chants, capturing the sounds of the towns and villages of the Pale of Settlement. The unprecedented embrace of Jewish music influenced Sergei Prokofiev and Dmitri Shostakovich, two of the greatest Russian composers.

Nevertheless, Pro Musica Hebraica found it difficult at first to attract world-class musicians to play the music. “Many musicians have no time for specifically Jewish music,” says Robyn, “and they are in total ignorance of Jewish music of the early 20th century from Eastern Europe.”

“It took us four years to find the musicians,” Charles continues. “Many musicians and agents refused. There was great resistance. Musicians want to be out in the broader culture. They are afraid of being thought too parochial.”

The musicians for the first Pro Musica Hebraica concert held at the Kennedy Center in April of 2008, the Biava String Quartet, came from the Juilliard School of Music. The quartet’s members were joined by famous Jewish Juilliard alumnus, violinist Itzhak Perlman. The concert, which commemorated the 100th anniversary of the St. Petersburg Society’s formation, featured unknown works by Alexander Krein, Joel Engel and Mikhail Gnesin, and by contemporary Argentine Jew Osvaldo Golijov, whose music they influenced.

A second Kennedy Center concert last November was performed by the ARC Ensemble (Artists of the Royal Conservatory of Music in Canada). The concert featured the music of one of the last century’s least-known Jewish geniuses, Mieczyslaw Weinberg.

Born in Warsaw, Weinberg studied in Minsk and Tashkent before moving to Moscow, where he became a close friend of Shostakovich. Members of Weinberg’s family were killed in the Holocaust, and he himself was considered suspect by Stalin. When, in 1953, he was arrested on charges of “Jewish bourgeois nationalism,” Shostakovich bravely intervened on his behalf. “The Weinberg-Shostakovich relationship produced several of the most important modern chamber music masterpieces to emerge from Eastern Europe,” Loeffler says. The Washington Post reviewer, Rebecca Ritzel, called Weinberg’s clarinet sonata “a piece that evokes klezmer without
ever sounding kitsch,” and his pianoquintet “music [that] is equal parts grief and nostalgia.”

In addition to Weinberg’s compositions, the concert included a piece for cello and piano by Holocaust survivor Szymon Laks and Prokofiev’s “Overture on Hebrew Themes.” Loeffler calls the latter “one of the rare Jewish works in the mainstream classical repertoire—both in its title, its references to klezmer music and its use of Jewish folk melody.” Written by Prokofiev in 1919 in New York, the piece was popular in the Soviet Union, but was stripped of its Jewish title and known only as “The Sextet.”

Pro Musica Hebraica has an ambitious agenda. Two Kennedy Center concerts are planned for 2009: A March performance will include the music of Joseph Achron, Russian–born Hollywood film composer Michel Michelet and Shostakovich, whose Fourth String Quartet is said to have been inspired by his exposure to Jewish folk music. A fall concert will highlight the Jewish baroque music of Salamone de Rossi, a Sephardic Italian Jew of the Renaissance, performed by the Apollo Ensemble of Amsterdam. In the future, the Krauthammers plan to publish definitive editions of scores, encourage conservatories to promote the music and create recordings for educational archives.

The project is part of a wider revival of Jewish music around the world. “We are starting to see the phenomenon of artists beginning to tap into Jewish tradition and melding it with reggae, cantorial music, Sephardic and klezmer music,” Loeffler says. Already, James Conlon, the music director of the Los Angeles Opera and also Pro Musica Hebraica’s artistic director, has launched a program called “Recovered Voices” to bring the music of composers suppressed by the Nazi regime to the opera stage.

Ultimately, the Krauthammers hope that their efforts will help inspire new Jewish art music. They are encouraged by the enthusiasm of the artists with whom they work. “The musicians in the Biava Quartet and the ARC Ensemble are in complete sympathy with the music although all but one are non-Jewish,” Charles says. “This shows how music can promote real understanding of different cultures.”—Eileen Lavine

http://momentmag.com/Exclusive/2009/200 ... prise.html
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Re: Interview with Charles Krauthammer about politics and MUSIC

Post by Corlyss_D » Fri Jun 12, 2009 10:50 pm

John F wrote:Hmmm. Krauthammer dismisses Mendelssohn as not Jewish enough
Can you think of anything about his music that is Jewish as opposed to German? Mendelssohn's grandfather was very influential in the Jewish enlightenment movement in Germany, the emphasis of which was assimilation and a lessening of their Jewishness in order to fit into German society of the times. The Jewish intellectual Rahel Varnhagen was very influential in the movement as well. Mendelssohn's father was even more emphatic that their Jewishness was an historical artifact without much relevance to them personally, going so far as to change his name to drop the Mendelssohn, adopting the name Bartholdy, and having his sons baptised Christians. Could there be a stronger statement of rejection of their Jewish heritage?
John B wrote: But Krauthammer says nothing of Bloch, Milhaud, or others like them. Maybe he just doesn't know or care that much about classical music, or at least modern classical music.
:lol: I think the articles I posted address that sufficiently. The Krauthammers are not interested in promoting the music of well-known Jewish composers.
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Re: Interview with Charles Krauthammer about politics and MUSIC

Post by John F » Sat Jun 13, 2009 12:57 am

Corlyss_D wrote:Can you think of anything about his music that is Jewish as opposed to German?
I'm not really an expert on that, and I certainly don't want to defer to Wagner or the Nazis, who believed they were experts in what's Jewish about Mendelssohn's music, and European Jews' music generally. From Krauthammer's definition of Jewishness in music, Mendelssohn wouldn't qualify: "In music it would be drawn from the music of the folk." And: "It's music that's either consciously or unconsciously drawn from the folk, the klezmer, the liturgical, the shtetl." Unusually in his century, Mendelssohn seems to have had no interest in the folk music of any nation or people, Jewish or Scottish or gypsy or whatever. What that says about Mendelssohn, might make an interesting Ph.D. thesis. :)
Corlyss_D wrote:The Krauthammers are not interested in promoting the music of well-known Jewish composers.
The Krauthammers certainly are interested in promoting the music of unknown Jewish composers; the article makes that clear. But I don't believe Krauthammer actually says what you do, or means it. He certainly mentions no such criterion when saying that they don't "do Mendelssohn"; his reason, as I said, is that Mendelssohn wasn't Jewish enough. On the other hand, I gather that one of his recent concerts featured music by a very famous composer who wasn't Jewish at all:
At one of your recent concerts, you defined Jewish music broadly as based on a sensibility rather than DNA. The lineup included the non-Jewish Dmitry Shostakovich's so-called "Jewish finale," itself one of the only pieces that featured recognizably Jewish melodies.
Nothing in the Krauthammers' criteria, as I've quoted him, excludes Shostakovich, in this case presumably the piano trio #2. And if so, then those criteria don't exclude Bloch or Milhaud either, or even the far more famous Schoenberg. Indeed, on ethnic and musical grounds (if the other works didn't sound that Jewish), these composers' music would seem to be even more "eligible" than that played at this concert.

Which isn't really an objection. The Krauthammers are perfectly free to spend their money however they like, and if they are bringing worthwhile music out of obscurity - for whatever reason and by whatever criteria - more power to them! But since this article was posted to invite attention to their project and, presumably, scrutiny of it, that's what I've given it.
Corlyss_D wrote:I guess neither John would cut Krauthammer any slack, since he seems to be the kind of staggeringly educated, professionally accomplished, highly influential, Jewish urban leading light that ought to play for their team.
That's uncalled-for, Corlyss. I was commenting on Krauthammer's ideas about music in their own terms, regardless of his ethnic or religious background, his politics, whatever. You should do me the same courtesy. There's too much of this gratuitous personal stuff around here for you to add to it. As for my motive for saying whatever I may say, that's for me to speak about if I choose, as the only one who actually knows what my motive is - and not for you or anybody else.
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Re: Interview with Charles Krauthammer about politics and MUSIC

Post by Corlyss_D » Sun Jun 14, 2009 4:23 pm

John F wrote:
Corlyss_D wrote:The Krauthammers are not interested in promoting the music of well-known Jewish composers.
The Krauthammers certainly are interested in promoting the music of unknown Jewish composers; the article makes that clear. But I don't believe Krauthammer actually says what you do, or means it.
I read the mission statement Thursday nite. You may be right that they don't mean it: the concept could be evolving in their minds.
Mission Statement

Through the centuries and across the globe, Jewish composers have created a rich repertoire of concert music that interweaves the sacred and the secular, folk and liturgical themes into one sophisticated artistic tradition. The vast majority of this tremendous creative output remains preserved in unpublished scores and archival manuscripts, virtually unknown to musical audiences, even within the Jewish community.
[Emphasis added]
Corlyss_D wrote:I guess neither John would cut Krauthammer any slack, since he seems to be the kind of staggeringly educated, professionally accomplished, highly influential, Jewish urban leading light that ought to play for their team.
That's uncalled-for, Corlyss. I was commenting on Krauthammer's ideas about music in their own terms, regardless of his ethnic or religious background, his politics, whatever.
Yeah. Right. The fact that the criticisms were speculative and lacked any basis in fact and certainly appeared to be discrediting was just coincidental, right? Both you and the other John didn't bother to do any research into the group or the principles as set forth by the founders before you shot off your mouths, and then you want to whine about it when you're caught off.
You should do me the same courtesy. There's too much of this gratuitous personal stuff around here for you to add to it. As for my motive for saying whatever I may say, that's for me to speak about if I choose, as the only one who actually knows what my motive is - and not for you or anybody else.
If you think it was uncalled for, you must think it was an insult. If you think that mild jab at your gagging politics was insulting, I'd hate to see how you react to a real insult. You libs are such wimps you go into a dead swoon whenever anyone even teases you just a little.
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Re: Interview with Charles Krauthammer about politics and MUSIC

Post by jbuck919 » Sun Jun 14, 2009 4:42 pm

Corlyss_D wrote:
John B wrote: But Krauthammer says nothing of Bloch, Milhaud, or others like them. Maybe he just doesn't know or care that much about classical music, or at least modern classical music.
:lol: I think the articles I posted address that sufficiently. The Krauthammers are not interested in promoting the music of well-known Jewish composers.

If I'm John B., then look again: That was not my post.

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Re: Interview with Charles Krauthammer about politics and MUSIC

Post by John F » Sun Jun 14, 2009 5:58 pm

Corlyss, you are even further out of order. The CMG house rules bar what you have done and are still doing. You are a "system administrator" here, you have signed the house rules, for all I know you wrote them yourself, and it's your and Lance's responsibility to enforce them - on yourself, if necessary. Obviously it is necessary.

I pointed out an inconsistency in the Krauthammer interview, because it was true and relevant, but I have not "discredited" the Krauthammers' project. In fact I've wished them well. So I don't understand why you are lashing out, making snarky personal remarks about my motives and now my character as if I had likewise personally offended you. Are you trying to drive me out of CMG?

If I have personally offended you, show me what I said, and if it really is personal, I'll take back what I said and apologize, and I'll mean it. Will you do the same for me?
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Re: Interview with Charles Krauthammer about politics and MUSIC

Post by Corlyss_D » Sun Jun 14, 2009 7:01 pm

John F wrote:Corlyss, you are even further out of order. The CMG house rules bar what you have done and are still doing. You are a "system administrator" here, you have signed the house rules, for all I know you wrote them yourself, and it's your and Lance's responsibility to enforce them - on yourself, if necessary. Obviously it is necessary.
:roll: If I interpreted the rules against everyone the way you want to interpret them against me, nothing but "isn't music nice?" comments would be premitted and nobody would come to this site. Get a life, John.
So I don't understand why you are lashing out, making snarky personal remarks about my motives and now my character as if I had likewise personally offended you.
Here. Let me get you a pallet so you can swoon in a dead faint safely and not hurt yourself.
Are you trying to drive me out of CMG?
Jeeeeez Louise! Now you're hyperventilating. Let me get you a paper bag . . .
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