By William Osborne
[Sent to various lists on December 31, 1999.]
The Philharmonic Revises Its Website and Quotes An SS Lieutenant To Confirm Its Cultural Purity
In 1997 the Vienna Philharmonic faced large protests in the USA due to its continuing policy of excluding women from membership. It also excludes people who are -visibly- members of racial minorities, since they feel such individuals would destroy the orchestra's image of Austrian authenticity. (Below my signature I include documentation of the Vienna Philharmonic's sexism and racism.)
To quell the protest the orchestra agreed to allow women membership, but in the three years since then they have reneged. Only women harpists are allowed to play with the orchestra.
In the aftermath of the protest, the Vienna Philharmonic hired a public relations consultant to help them cleanse their reputation as a sexist and racist institution. These efforts included major changes in the Philharmonic's website. The alterations provide interesting insights about how the orchestra (and the music industry) are attempting to reassimilate the Vienna Philharmonic and its values back into the international community. You can see the new website at: http://www.wienerphilharmoniker.at
The original homepage of the Vienna Philharmonic opened with a close up photo of two monumental, bare breasted statues of women which serve as pillars to hold up the ceiling of the orchestra's concert hall. Since women as bare breasted ceiling pillars failed to enhance the all-male orchestra's image, the photo was replaced. Now one sees a distant, misty, gray image of the hall's interior, which makes it appear as if only a privileged elite are allowed a close view--an aspect of the patrician rituals that traditionally characterize symphonic performances.
The new website also includes a brief history of the Philharmonic written by Clemens Hellsberger, a violinist and musicologist who is Chairman of the orchestra. In his historical sketch, Hellsberger falsely portrays the orchestra as if they were the victims of National Socialism. In reality the Vienna Philharmonic willingly collaborated with the regime, and became one of the most active propaganda instruments in the music world of the Third Reich. Forty-seven percent of the Vienna Philharmonic's members were National Socialists--far above the national average. And many belonged to the Nazi Party well before 1938 when it was still illegal in Austria.
It is also noteworthy that Hellsberger says absolutely nothing about the Philharmonic's current status--as if 149 white men on stage were just some sort of accident. An orchestra that is really trying to change would happily talk about its efforts.
There is also a new section about "the Viennese Sound", written by Wolfgang Schuster, a percussionist who is also the orchestra's press secretary. Schuster elaborates on the unique instruments that give the Philharmonic its special timbre. To document the orchestra's unusual string sound, Schuster quotes former orchestra Chairman, Wilhelm Jerger, who wrote a book about the Vienna Philharmonic in 1942, and who was also a Lieutenant in the SS. On the website, the SS Lieutenant is cited with the following "multi-cultrual" statement:
"... the Viennese School of String Instruments developed with its special uniqueness: the softness of the tone, the sensuality of the sound-production, the naturalness in the phrasing are manifestations of a commingling of many races here on the outer limits of the German Realm."
During those years there was indeed an intense concern with the "commingling" of races, especially on the "outer limits of the German Realm" where ethnic and racial impurities were presumably a greater danger. It is interesting that Schuster finds an SS Lieutenant a worthy authority on stylistic purity, especially in an orchestra that has a policy of remaining entirely white (and male).
Jerger's book also focuses on the long line of father/son genealogies that comprise the history of the Philharmonic. In his comments about Jerger's book, Schuster notes that although "the violin tradition of the Philharmonic is somewhat more fully handled, the family histories of the other string groups are, of course, also provided." Mr. Schuster discretely avoids mentioning that Jerger's genealogical tables include an asterisk by every member who was not an "Aryan."
Jerger even goes on to explain that the Philharmonic's "blood" was substantial enough to avoid serious damage by these "non-Aryan" influences. This follows National Socialism's ideology of _Ahnenerbe_, which asserts that cultural traits are genetically inherited.
It is astounding that the Vienna Philharmonic would quote Jerger, an SS Lieutenant, on its website. His racist views are so uncomfortably close to the Vienna Philharmonic's recent comments about the special qualities of the "central European soul", their attitude toward Asians, and music-making revolving exclusively around white males.
The Vienna Philharmonic is the only all-white orchestra in the world. And it is the only orchestra in the world that quotes an SS officer to substantiate its stylistic purity.