Israel’s public broadcaster, Kan, has apologised after breaking a long-standing ban on the music of Richard Wagner, The Times of Israel has reported. The Voice of Music channel aired part of Wagner’s Götterdämmerung, conducted by Daniel Barenboim at the Bayreuth Festival in 1991 (Norman Lebrecht’s slippedisc.com has reported it was selections from Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg) but has since apologised for what it described as an “error”.
While performing or broadcasting Wagner’s music in Israel isn’t illegal, it has long been taboo, due to both Wagner’s well-documented anti-Semitism and the use of his music in Nazi Germany (he was Hitler’s favourite composer) and therefore its associations with the Holocaust.
“The (musical) editor erred in his artistic choice to play the piece, and it was a wrong public decision,” a spokesperson for the station said in a statement. “We apologise to our listeners.”
“The directives of the Israeli broadcasting corporation have remained as they were for years — Wagner’s music won’t be played on Kan the Voice of Music,” she said. “This is out of an understanding of the pain such a broadcast would evoke among the Holocaust survivors in our audience.”
Debate over whether Wagner’s music should be heard in Israel has been heated over the years, with several conductors – including Barenboim – seeking to break the ban and meeting resistance (Barenboim famously caused a controversy in 2001 when he conducted the Berlin Staatskapelle in the Tristan und Isolde Prelude as an encore). West Australian Symphony Orchestra’s Principal Conductor Asher Fisch has also weighed in to the debate in Limelight in 2013, expressing his own desire to conduct Wagner in Israel.