Harmony. Christmas is about harmony. Harmony can only exist when there is hope. Christmas is about hope. Christmas is about light and guidance. Christmas is about a promise of a better life, a life in harmony. A life, where evil has been vanquished, where love triumphs over hate. When I look back at my life, I remember no time when I was as dispirited about humanity as now. The will to solve the urgent global problems in a spirit of benevolence and cooperation just seems to be a phrase, while real life is moving into the opposite direction.
Today is the first day of Hanukkah, the Festival of Lights. Jews all over the world celebrate the rededication of the second temple in Jerusalem. I want to honour on this day a Jewish composer. I want to honour Jewish scientists and artists and their intellectual output by which they enriched European culture. Among those who brought the light to Europe were the philosophers Baruch de Spinoza and Moses Mendelssohn. The poet Heinrich Heine. The physicist Albert Einstein and the political scientists Hannah Arendt and Eric Voegelin. All five pondered in one way or another the fate of mankind and the experience of God and came to different conclusions. All five deeply cared about humanity, its progress, its well-being and searched for the purpose of life.
March 1938: German troops occupy Austria, supported by thousands of local Nazi sympathizers. April 1938: Adolf Hitler orders preparations to invade and annex Czechoslovakia. September 1938: Through bluffing and unscrupulous blackmailing, Hitler wins French and British approval to annex the Czech territories of Moravia and Bohemia. While political tensions in Europe reached a first culmination point, a Czech composer was busy writing a concerto upon a commission of the Swiss conductor Paul Sacher for the Basel Chamber Orchestra, a concerto grosso in three movements. It became known as Bohuslav Martinu’s Double Concerto, H. 271. It has been recorded by the Essener Philharmoniker under Tomas Netopil and the pianist Ivo Kahanek.
Fear – that would be too strong a word. Reluctance, yes, that describes it better. I feel an intense reluctance to listen to works of certain composers, to expose myself to their music despite my curiosity. What exactly do I expect? Being disappointed by music that may seem boring? Being horrified by dissonant sounds hurting my eardrums? I don’t quite know, but what I know is that once I summon my courage to explore the music of one of these composers, I usually do not have to confront disappointment or post-traumatic stress disorder.