In December 1916, a French critic takes issue with the fact that in London « the distinction between Allemands and Boches has yet to be made ». In Paris, on the other hand, during the whole conflict, such a distinction is rather strictly observed : Mozart, Beethoven, and even Schumann continue to be played by the French orchestras, while Wagner and all his successors, including contemporary composers such as Strauss and Schoenberg, are totally excluded. Yet, the application of this split, both in the field of musical practices and at the level of the discourse, does not go without many tensions and hesitations. These reflect general ideological debates – such as the extension of the thesis about the “two Germanies” – as well as contradictory positions inside the musical field, concerning for example the issue of avant-garde music. While Camille Saint-Saëns pleads for a total exclusion of German composers as early as September 1914, others, for instance Vincent d’Indy, are ready to imagine a post-war period in which Wagner would be honored again – as it will actually be the case after December 1919. In fact, in the first months of 1916 the nerves of the anti-German advocates seem to get more tense – for example, with the foundation of the Ligue pour la défense de la musique française – as the presence of German works in the Parisian concerts becomes more of a banal fact.
By Esteban Buch