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March 10–13, 2023

Music of (In)Tolerance: from Mendelssohn to Wagner

Ideas of oppression, (in)tolerance and resilience are woven throughout this program of thought-provoking juxtapositions. Wagner's early Rienzi Overture is influenced by his admiration of Meyerbeer’s operas and Mendelssohn's monumental "Reformation" Symphony is a heartfelt work inspired by the composer's Protestant faith. Visionary pianist-composer Gabriela Montero showcases her astonishing powers in Babel, a portrait of her experience as a human rights activist.

A Message About the Program from Music Director David DanzmayrIn addition to being a pioneer of music drama, Richard Wagner is (in)famous as the writer of an anti-Semitic essay “Jewishness in Music” (“Das Judenthum in Musik”). The main targets of his intolerant vitriol were two composers with Jewish heritage: Giacomo Meyerbeer and Felix Mendelssohn. It is less well known that before publishing this essay in 1850, Wagner admired Meyerbeer’s operas greatly. Wagner’s early opera “Rienzi” (1841) was written in the style of Meyerbeer’s Parisian grand operas and became Wagner’s first public success with Meyerbeer’s support and advocacy. Wagner’s relationship with Mendelssohn is even more surprising because the two composers knew each other and conducted each other’s music. It is deplorable that Wagner felt emboldened by Mendelssohn’s death in 1847 to publish his anti-Semitic thoughts – but the overture to “Rienzi” gives us a glimpse into young Wagner’s relationships with Jewish composers before he published such abhorrent words.

When you hear Wagner’s “Rienzi” overture juxtaposed with works by Mendelssohn (who came from a Jewish family but was actually baptized as Protestant!), Gabriela Montero and Tausky, I hope the music will bring up questions about our intolerance to our fellow humans and help us find answers to how we can be better.

from Music Director David Danzmayr


Wagner: Overture to Rienzi
Gabriela Montero: Babel
Tauský: Coventry
Mendelssohn: Symphony No. 5, “Reformation”


David Danzmayr, Conductor
Gabriela Montero, Piano
Oregon Symphony

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This concert is part of Classical Series A


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Tickets start at $25


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