Nadav Spiegelman

Genius & Anxiety

Norman Lebrecht
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On West Twenty-Eighth Street, between Fifth and Sixth Avenues, every other business is a music publisher, most of them Jewish-owned. It’s known as Tin Pan Alley, and the big players are former doorstep salesmen Isidore Witmark, Leopold Feist, Edward Marx, and Joseph Stern.
A Savile Row–clad Anglophile, Kern composes 1,350 songs.
Too famous to survive in the New York goldfish bowl, he moves to Hollywood in the early 1930s, works in the movies, plays with Pierre Monteux and the Los Angeles Philharmonic in the Hollywood Bowl, and takes up painting, showing great skill. He makes a portrait of his neighbor, the exiled composer Arnold Schoenberg, whom he pesters for lessons. Schoenberg, who sorely needs the cash, declines. “I would only make you a bad Schoenberg,” he explains, “and you are such a good Gershwin already.”
“I don’t understand it,” says Mahler of Schoenberg’s music, “but he’s young and maybe he’s right.”13
Belmont’s second appearance is as Julius Beaufort in Edith Wharton’s The Age of Innocence. Set in 1870s New York, the novel is a peephole into the drawing rooms and ballrooms that look over Central Park. Beaufort is a grasping, women-groping banker: “His habits were dissipated, his tongue was bitter, and his antecedents were mysterious.” His wife “grew younger and blonder and more beautiful each year.”
Morgan builds the Metropolitan Club, from which Jews are excluded. He founds the Metropolitan Opera, where Jews are barred from owning boxes, and the Metropolitan Museum, where their gifts are refused. Metropolitan, in Manhattan, means “Jew-free.” Joseph Seligman, taking his family on vacation to Saratoga Springs’ Grand Union Hotel, is told on arrival: “Mr. Hilton has given instructions that no Israelites shall be permitted in future to stop at this hotel.”