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Patriotism, Sex, and the Orchestra: An Early 20th-Century ‘Fake News’ Scandal

How one newspaper targeted a famous conductor and nearly toppled the Boston Symphony.

History By

The Boston Globe recently published a massive historical retelling of an unbelievable, early 20th-century scandal that ensnared one of the world’s top conductors under false pretenses and nearly toppled Boston’s Symphony Orchestra.

Dr. Karl Muck, the BSO’s renowned and beloved conductor was initially—and laughably—accused of espionage by a power-hungry Providence Journal editor who had contempt for the German people. But as the United States itself began to lean toward joining the first Great War, Muck (pronounced like “book”) found his personal and professional secrets being pulled from him by federal agents, to be shared with the public at large. A combination of miscommunication, poor timing and his heritage led Muck into a sordid situation worthy of his namesake.