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Thursday, 26 July, 2001, 14:27 GMT 15:27 UK
Conductor condemns Barenboim boycott
Wagner was a known anti-Semite and Hitler favourite
Renowned conductor Zubin Mehta has condemned the Israeli Parliament for suggesting a boycott on fellow musician Daniel Barenboim.

The comments by Mehta, Israel Philharmonic's conductor since 1971, were prompted by the angry response to Barenboim performing music by Hitler's favourite composer.

We are absolutely disapproving of the decision made against Daniel Barenboim

Zubin Mehta
Barenboim had originally agreed not to play Wagner at the prestigious Berlin Staatskapelle concert on 7 July in Jerusalem, but he conducted an encore by the composer on the night.

This broke a decades-old Israeli cultural taboo.

Mehta said: "We are really, very completely condemning and absolutely disapproving of the decision made by the cultural committee of the parliament against Daniel Barenboim."

The education and culture committee of Israel's parliament said on Tuesday that Israeli cultural institutions should shun Barenboim until he apologises.

Zubin Mehta in 1980
Zubin Mehta: Disapproved of Israeli Parliament's suggestion
Indian-born Mehta added that Barenboim was "extremely disturbed" by the committee's announcement.

Barenboim had said in May he would exclude Wagner's opera Die Walkuerie after pressure from Holocaust survivors, politicians, and members of a Nazi-hunting organization.

Mehta agreed with Barenboim that democracy and freedom of expression were now at stake.

"What happened in July with his Berlin orchestra is for open debate," Mehta said. "It can be discussed and it is discussed because we are living in a democracy."

Daniel Barenboim
Barenboim: Broke a decades-old Israeli taboo
Mehta conducted the encore from Tristan and Isolde with the Israel Philharmonic in 1982, but his performance was interrupted by a Holocaust survivor.

The man rolled up his sleeve to show Mehta a concentration camp number tattoo.

Since then Mehta has never included the composer in his performances in Israel.

Wagner was born in Leipzig in 1813 and was an acknowledged anti-Semite.

He provided anti-Semitic inspiration for the Nazis and was the favourite composer of Nazi leader Adolf Hitler.

See also:

30 May 01 | Arts
Protests stop Wagner concert
27 Oct 00 | Middle East
Israeli orchestra breaks Wagner taboo
08 Jul 01 | Arts
Barenboim breaks Wagner taboo
07 Jun 98 | Middle East
Tel Aviv opera drops plans for Wagner
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