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It was a trivial incident at a Prom concert in September that brought home to me just how fatal the European project has become — not so much for Britain, as for Europe.

Part I: Europe

The concert in question was a very European affair, performed by a small German band, the Freiburg Baroque Orchestra, under a young Spanish conductor, Pablo Heras-Casado. The programme was all-Mendelssohn, and it too evoked aspects of European geography and history: from the miraculous Hebrides Overture to the turbulent Reformation Symphony. Felix Mendelssohn himself felt no less at home in Britain than he did in Germany or Italy. The high point of this Sunday lunchtime Prom (so relaxed that someone unwisely decided to bring their baby) was the great Violin Concerto, performed here by the eminent German violinist Isabelle Faust. It was a fine performance, warmly received.

Donald Trump: The new Leviathan? (Illustration by Michael Daley)

Yet when Ms Faust stilled the applause to announce an encore, I could hardly believe my ears. “Richard Wagner: ‘Träume’,” she said. It wasn’t the music: she played this adaptation for violin and orchestra of the most sensual of Wagner’s songs for his lover Mathilde Wesendonck to perfection. What kind of historical amnesia did it require, though, to insert a work by the most notorious anti-Semite in the history of music into a concert in memory of perhaps the greatest of all Jewish composers? Felix, the grandson of Moses Mendelssohn, the apostle of Enlightenment and pioneer of religious toleration; Felix, who like his friend, the virtuoso Ferdinand David for whom he wrote the Violin Concerto, had been baptised to gain acceptance in a hostile gentile society, and who did so much to revive the Christian musical tradition, starting with Johann Sebastian Bach; Felix, the man whom the young Wagner idolised but whose posthumous reputation he later did his utmost to destroy, despite having plagiarised his music — the rhythms of the Hebrides Overture inspired the Ride of the Valkyries, the Reformation Symphony was imitated in Parsifal, the very idea of The Ring was borrowed from Mendelssohn, including the depiction of the Rhine with which the cycle begins. Isabelle Faust is 45, old enough to know better. What could she have been thinking?

Reflecting on how a cultured standard-bearer of the European Union could strike such a false note, I realised that this was the inevitable consequence of the ideology that has been imposed on the Continent for some 60 years. “Europe” — as in the “more Europe” of which Jean-Claude Juncker, Emmanuel Macron, Angela Merkel and virtually every other mainstream politician speaks — is a denial of history, of responsibility, of the collective memory of a civilisation. It implies that the truth about our past is too terrible a burden for the successor generations to bear. Instead, they must be fed a narrative in which the slate is wiped clean, the wishful thinking of the present cancels the guilt of the past, and recrimination becomes a crime. In this Europe without a pre-history, there can be no objection to the intrusion of a hostile presence into a commemoration of a composer whose memory the Nazis sought to eradicate. Mendelssohn and Wagner were both great Europeans, so their symbolic reconciliation must be effected retrospectively. The myth of the German-Jewish symbiosis is given a new lease of life; the fact that it ended in genocide need not detain us. Wagner, author of the toxic tract The Jews in Music that demanded the purging of Jewish influence in German culture, is handed down a posthumous pardon.

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