A version of my recent article on El Sistema and Venezuelan politics was published in The Guardian. My criticism of the media coverage of El Sistema must have touched a nerve, as having solicited the article from me, they then tried to undermine it by changing the text and adding a footer without informing me. Highly unorthodox, to put it mildly. It seems that nothing is ever straightforward where El Sistema is concerned.
The Guardian article was cited by Alex Ross in an article in the New Yorker on Toscanini and Trump. Ross’s final paragraph carried resonances for the current musical situation in Venezuela:
Still, the decisiveness of Toscanini’s stance in the thirties commands respect. In April, 1933, he received a letter from Hitler, addressed to “Hochverehrter Meister” (“Most honored master”), essentially begging him to return to Bayreuth that summer. Few artists would have been able to resist such flattery. But Toscanini knew how it would play out: he would be photographed with Hitler, and his presence would provide cover for Nazi oppression. Nothing should interfere with music, yet interference happens all the same. It is difficult to visualize Toscanini in a scene like the one that unfolded at the Elbphilharmonie. He would not have given a speech or released a statement; he would not have explained himself in interviews. He would never have been there in the first place.