Then & Now 8/24: Music and Politics
On this date in 1968, Czech conductor and composer Rafael Kubelik launched an appeal to world musicians to boycott performances in the five nations which invaded Czechoslovakia until their military forces evacuate the country. The appeal was joined by Igor Stravinsky, Arthur Rubinstein, Yehudi Menuhin, Otto Klemperer, Bernard Haitink, and Claudio Arrau among others.
Earlier this week, conductor Gustavo Dudamel spoke out about the political and social upheaval in his country, and in response, the Venezuelan government has cancelled the upcoming U.S. tour by the National Youth Orchestra with Dudamel conducting. According to an article from NPR Music’s Tom Huizenga, the decision is seen by many as payback for Dudamel's recent criticism. In May, Dudamel wrote to Venezuelan officials in an open letter after the death of an 18-year-old musician who had been trained in El Sistema, the same government-funded music program that Dudamel participated in as a child and now champions. Dudamel wrote: "I have an obligation, as a Venezuelan citizen, to speak out against the unconstitutional decision by the government to convene a national constituent assembly, which will have the power not only to rewrite the Constitution but also to dissolve state institutions." The planned four-city tour in September included stops at Wolf Trap in Virginia, Chicago's Ravinia Festival, and the Hollywood Bowl.