Letter: Anti-Semitism in Wagner's music

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Sir: Simon Williams (Letters, 24 August) is not quite correct when he says that 'there is not the least breath of anti-Semitism . . . in Wagner's whole oeuvre'. Let him read (if he can bear to do so) the composer's nasty piece, 'Jewishness in Music', and then study the vocal lines that Wagner wrote for Mime in Das Rheingold and Siegfried. Mahler, himself Jewish, believed that '. . . with Mime, Wagner intended to ridicule the Jews, with all their characteristic traits - petty intelligence and greed - the jargon is textually and musically so cleverly suggested . . .'

Even more pointed is the case of Sixtus Beckmesser in Die Meistersinger, a savage jibe at the Viennese critic Hanslick, whom Wagner had once thought, erroneously, to be Jewish. Beckmesser corresponds to the description of the Jew in that article, both in his singing line and his behaviour as set out in the stage directions. Thomas Mann believed this to be an anti-Semitic caricature.

Yours faithfully,

DAVID PEET

London, W2

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