Classic Essays

The Music Monopoly

conductorsTHE JEWISH ASCENDANCY in the American music world is so obvious that even ADL officials no longer bother to deny it. From instrumentalists to conductors to composers to teachers the Jewish monopoly is quasi-total. Jewish musicians, in fact, boast about it. Yehudi Menuhin in his memoirs Unfinished Journey recounts the long roster of Russian-Jewish violinists (living or dead), which includes, besides himself, Jascha Heifetz, Georges Enesco, Fritz Kreisler and Isaac Stern. Newsweek lists the following pianists: Vladimir Horowitz, Mischa Dichter, Emmanuel Ax, Alfred Brendel, Alexis Weissenberg, Lazar Berman, Vladimir Ashkenazy, Charles Rosin, Daniel Barenboim and Murray Perahia. The magazine adds, as if to salt the cultural wound, that the most sought after pianist since Van Cliburn is Negro André Watts. In such a setting the rare Majority virtuoso, such as pianist Garrick Ohlssohn, seems almost out of place.

The transatlantic currents of American history have made this country especially susceptible to cultural dispossession. Since the roots of Western culture are European, Americans developed the often counterproductive habit of looking to Europe for an artistic lift. In the nineteenth century a great many American musicians studied in Germany and adopted German idioms. In the 1920s American musicians flocked to Paris. By the 1930s New York itself was as foreign as Europe, since the concert field was now entirely dominated by the earlier Russian-Jewish immigrants and the later-arriving refugees from National Socialist Germany.

As there are more graduates from the music schools each year than can possibly pursue a profitable musical career, music ” businessmen” decide who will become successful and who will become insurance salesmen. One of the earliest musical agencies was Harrison and Harshbarger, which was purchased by Chicago utility magnate Samuel Insull, the ostensibly big-hearted philanthropist behind the Chicago Opera, who hoped to use the agency to promote recitals for his divas. Insull  eventually decamped to Greece, one step ahead of federal agents who wanted to arrest him for mail fraud.

Later, national radio network began to acquire control of the concert market. NBC bought out the former Harrison-Harshbarger agency, now known as the Civic Concert Service. CBS took over the Community Concerts Corporation, whose directors were Sigmund Spaeth end Daniel Mayer. In 1942, however, under pressure from the Federal Trade Commission, the network severed their connections with the concert agencies. O. O. Bottorff of NBC joined with Marks Levine of CBS to form a new independent agency named National Concert and Artists Corporation (NCAC). Ward French and Arthur Judson, both CBS veterans, formed another independent agency called Columbia Management Service. Perhaps because of merit, perhaps because of racial balance, Ben Lobdill and Kurt Weinhold were also made officers of Columbia. When French was ousted from the Board of Directors in 1954, his successor was Frederick Schang.

NCAC and Columbia basically controlled the concert market until 1955, when they were accused of breaking antitrust laws. Nevertheless, Columbia remained the most important concert agency, while NCAC slid downhill and second place went to independent Sol Hurok, who started his career with NCAC. Other independent promoters, less successful than Hurok, are L.E. Behymer, David Rubin and Michael Wolfsohn. With such a strong Jewish element in these organizations it is not surprising to find a similarly strong Jewish line-up among concert performers.

Jews have had a long history of control over American opera companies. Way back in the presidency of Andrew Jackson, the Italian Opera House in New York was opened with Lorenzo Da Ponte as its manager. Da Ponte was an Italian-Jewish immigrant who had been court poet to the Emperor of Austria and the librettist of several Mozart operas. After the Italian Opera failed, new opera companies were formed under the management of such individuals as Max Maretzek, Maurice Strackosch, Max Strackosch and Bernard Ullman. Around the turn of the century, Maurice Grau established the Grau Opera Company, a precursor of the Metropolitan.

The Met began as a snobbish Majority Institution, but as Jews moved ahead in banking they simultaneously chipped away at the more prestigious bulwarks of the Wasp aristrocracy. The penetration of the Metropolitan was achieved when director James Nathan Hyde asked his banker, Jacob Schiff, to join the Board. Schiff declined, but suggested his partner, Otto Kahn, who was quickly accepted.

What happened next is described in Stephen Birmingham’s Our Crowd:

Otto Kahn initially purchased two hundred shares of stock in the corporation. Hyde had had three hundred, and when he departed for Paris, Otto Kahn had bought these. Henry Morgenthau, another director, soon retired and Kahn bought his three hundred shares. Suddenly Kahn was the corporation’s leading stockholder. He began buying up opera stock wherever it was available, and presently he had 2,750 shares and virtually owned the Metropolitan Opera. As his mentor (Schiff) would have agreed, owning the company was the first prerequisite to making it one of his “serious occupations.”

The Met’s only competition in New York was the Manhattan Opera Company, owned by Oscar Hammerstein. In 1910, after Hammerstein’s son Arthur convinced his father to give him power of attorney, Kahn and Arthur signed an agreement turning over the Manhattan Opera Company’s operatic interests to the Met. Kahn’s victory was complete and he now controlled the destiny of opera in New York City, if not in the entire country.

Opera management in the U.S. is now more Jewish than it was seventy years ago. One has only to mention such powerful general managers as Kurt Herbert Adler in San Francisco and Rudolf Bing in New York. Deliberately or not deliberately, Bing and Adler have stacked opera management with, and promoted the opera careers of, a swarm of minority types. For example, when Bing was general manager of the Met, he offered one of his very few opera commissions to a mediocre tunesmith named Mark Blitzstein. Blitzstein died while working on his opera, based on the Sacco-Venzetti trial, so the project was never completed. Other prominent minority figures in today’s operatic world are conductors James Levine of the Met and Julius Rudel of the New York City Opera.

Among critics the same closed society prevails. The most influential of them all is Harold Schoenberg of the New York Times. Other dictators of musical taste include Herbert Saal of Newsweek, Alfred Frankenstein in San Francisco and John Rosenfeld, in Dallas. Harold Rosenthal is the editor of Opera magazine. Leonard Marcus edits High Fidelity. The ostracism suffered by those who do not fit the minority mold is one of the prime reasons for the Majority’s dispossession in the music world. Since Jews also control the music schools (William Schuman heads the omnipotent Julliard School) Majority musicians have no recourse except to kowtow to the minority culture commissars or give up all hope of a successful musical career.

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Source: Instauration magazine, January 1979

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