I feature the divine music of Beethoven’s ‘Fur Elise’ this morning for many reasons. Partly my own enjoyment, because to watch and to hear a talented virtuoso perform this enchanting piece is like balm to a wounded soul; but also to ask, as I attempt to do so in my headline, a very important question. Does, or should, a composer’s or artiste’s politics or beliefs have any place in the performance of that composer’s or artiste’s works?
Consider Wagner: his works feature majestic themes, fantastic sweeping lyrical overtures and superlative works such as the ‘Ring of the Nibelung’ and ‘Lohengrin’; the majesty of ‘Gotterdamerung’ from that same ‘Ring’ series, and many, many more. His works espoused nationalistic pride, and deep fervour, and those works still speak to many today. But he was also a vehement and vicious anti-Semite, and his efforts to keep Jews out of his orchestras and audiences are well documented. But should we allow his beliefs to intrude on our enjoyment of his superb musical works?
Now I would move to the young lady who performed with skill and verve in that performance featured in the video. She is Russian, and besides being extremely well-known for her skills at the piano, she is also well-known for her pro-Russian and –Putin pronouncements especially on the subject of the Ukraine, and Russia’s involvement with that unhappy State. She is a fervent Nationalist, and whilst I might have an argument as to the target of her adoration; namely the Russian federation, and Putin as its boss: I have no qualms at all with her philosophy, which is Nation above all. There is nothing wrong, in my view, with expressions of a deep love for the country of one’s birth, and allied to that love, a hope that that country will prosper. But that is why Miss Lisitsa has been told that she is no longer welcome to play the piano with the Toronto Symphony Orchestra, which had booked Lisitsa to perform Rachmaninov’s 2nd Piano Concerto with the orchestra last Friday.
It seems as though the local chapter of the Ukrainian Nut-Cases National (Canadian Branch) was ‘deeply offended’ by Miss Lisitsa’s tweets and comments, and threatened legal action. So, because of a so-called ‘hate-speech’ agenda, a vivacious, charming and talented pianist will not be playing Rachmaninov in Canada; and yet another nail has been driven into the already-dormant body which is labelled ‘Freedom of Speech’ in this once tolerant world in which we live. So, enjoy those fragrant moments ‘Fur Elise’, and sympathise, if you will, with the citizens of Toronto, whose orchestra management caved in at the slightest sound of the noise and fury of the so-called Liberal Left!