Many scholars over the years have refuted the theory, but the resurgent question serves as an opportunity to highlight the pressing discussion about inequality and systemic racism in classical music and its history, scholars say. Johann and Maria van Beethoven had seven children: the future composer Ludwig was the second, born in 1770.[3][4]. And last Thursday, the Sphinx Virtuosi chamber orchestra released a 2-part performance of black British composer Philip Herbert’s “Elegy: In Memoriam,” a work created in honor of British teenager Stephen Lawrence who was murdered by a white gang in 1993. Maria died in Bonn in 1787 of tuberculosis, aged 40. Maria married a certain Johann Laym, valet to the Elector of Trèves, in 1763 when she was sixteen. Edmond Dédé. “And in a lot of ways, there is no figure that we associate more with genius than Beethoven himself. Soumitra Chatterjee's health deteriorates, not responding to the treatments Rather, it is based on the assumption that one of Beethoven’s ancestors had a child out of wedlock,” writes the Beethoven Center at San José State University on its website. [2][4] Her birth place is now a museum, named Mutter-Beethoven-Haus [de]. And others like him.”, There are already many Black European composers whose music deserves our ears. These composers were “hyper-visible” as part of a small black population working in Europe’s music scene at the time, says Thurman. 17th Annual Photo Contest Finalists Announced. Garrett McQueen, host and producer for Minnesota Public Radio’s classical station, created a Juneteenth “musical celebration” highlighting black classical composers throughout the years. “Instead of spending our energy debating this issue, let’s take our energy and our efforts into lifting the treasure trove of black composers that we do have,” says Thurman. Nora McGreevy is a freelance journalist based in Chicago. Beethoven dedicated his “Sonata No. For Thurman, it’s these black musicians—past and present—that deserve the same attention we give to musicians like Beethoven. Juli 1787 in Bonn) war die Mutter des Komponisten Ludwig van Beethoven. Her parents were Johann Heinrich Keverich (1701–1759) and Anna Klara (Clara) née Westorff (1707–1768), who were married in 1731. Their first son was born in 1769 and named Ludwig Maria, but … 9 in A major” to Bridgetower, although the two later had a falling out. Maria Magdalena van Beethoven, née Keverich (19 December 1746 – 17 July 1787) was the wife of the Bonn court musician Johann van Beethoven, and the mother of the composer Ludwig van Beethoven. A League of American Orchestras study of the field in 2014 found that less than 2 percent of musicians in American orchestras were African American, and only 4.3 percent of conductors were black. Continue “I am less interested in if that question is true, and more interested in the history of it,” says Thurman in a phone interview. Berbers from North Africa—known to Europeans at the time as “Moors”—have a long historical connection to Spain, de Lerma notes. Ludwig van Beethoven was the second of seven children born to his parents, Johnann van Beethoven and Maria Magdalena Keverich, the daughter of a chef. But I do need people to play the music of Bridgetower. California Do Not Sell My Info Smithsonian Institution, (Photo by Universal History Archive / Getty Images). In just one example, a 1969 article in the Chicago Daily Defender cites Frau Fischer, an acquaintance of Beethoven’s, who described the composer as “Short, stocky, broad shoulders, short neck, round nose, blackish-brown complexion.”. “We perform this work in remembrance of Stephen Lawrence, George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, and so many others who have been taken from this world unjustly,” the group states in the video. “I, frankly, don’t need any more debates about Beethoven’s blackness. In an article from the Concordian that was published in 2015, it is alleged that Beethoven was the son of Johann Van, a white German man, and Maria Magdalena Keverich, allegedly a … Conventional scholarship dictates that Beethoven (1770-1827) was born to Johann and Maria Magdalena van Beethoven, whose genealogy is Flemish. German historian and musicologist Kira Thurman studies black musicians in Europe (and has a book on the subject coming out in 2021.) Keep up-to-date on: © 2020 Smithsonian Magazine. Her birthplace is now a museum, the Mutter-Beethoven-Haus. Please join the Sphinx Virtuosi as they reflect on the injustices of the past & present with Elegy: In Memoriam - Stephen Lawrence by Philip Herbert “Because they’re not getting enough time and attention as they are.”. Medicinal Plant May Have Evolved Camouflage to Evade Humans, Melting Ice in Norway Reveals Ancient Arrows, The Ten Best STEM Toys to Give as Gifts in 2020. Dezember 1746 in Ehrenbreitstein; 17. Last week, many people have took advantage of Juneteenth celebrations to amplify the work of black composers and classical musicians. Johann's father was Kapellmeister at the court of the Electorate of Cologne, which was in Bonn, and Johann was a court musician there. “So instead of asking the question, ‘Was Beethoven Black?’ ask ‘Why don’t I know anything about George Bridgetower?’” Thurman wrote in the thread. Her work has appeared in Wired, Washingtonian, the Boston Globe, South Bend Tribune, the New York Times and more. Get the best of Smithsonian magazine by email. “And they were doing amazing things. ... and Maria Magdalena Keverich, a Moorish woman. Beethoven’s mother, Maria Magdalena Keverich, was likely Moorish, being born in the area that was under the direct control of the Moors. Her birthplace is now a museum, the Mutter-Beethoven-Haus. 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However, she suggested that those who focused on whether or not the composer was black are missing an important part of the picture: the number of black composers, including Bridgetower, Beethoven’s contemporary and friend, who have received relatively little attention in history and popular culture up to this point. Give a Gift. Sadly, only three of their children survived to adulthood. the Chevalier de Saint-Georges (1745-1799), a celebrated French composer; and the British composer Samuel Coleridge-Taylor (1875-1912), who wrote a trilogy of cantatas “The Song of Hiawatha,” based on a poem by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. Beethoven, Maria Magdalena van / 1746–1787, Literature by and about Maria Magdalena van Beethoven, Ira F. Brilliant Center for Beethoven Studies,, Wikipedia articles with WORLDCATID identifiers, Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License, This page was last edited on 5 September 2020, at 06:59. In honor of Juneteenth, Sphinx is proud to share a 2-part musical offering. [2][3], She married Johann van Beethoven at the Church of St Remigius, Bonn on 12 November 1767. In addition to de Lerma, musicologist Donald Macardle and novelist Darryl Pinckney have also disputed the claim, Rinehart notes. An old question circulated on Twitter last week: Was Ludwig van Beethoven, the famous German composer, a black man? On 30 January 1763, she married Johann Georg Leym, who was in the service of the Archbishop of Trier; he died in 1765. Those who dispute the composer's whiteness argue that his mother might have had an affair with a Spanish person with African ancestry, or that Beethoven’s Flemish ancestors mixed with people of African descent when their region was briefly under Spanish monarchical rule. “[…] [I]t is important to note that no one called Beethoven black or a moor during his lifetime, and the Viennese were keenly aware both of Moors and of mulattos, such as George Bridgetower, the famous violinist who collaborated with Beethoven.”. When William Levi Dawson’s (1899-1990) “Negro Folk Symphony” was performed by the Philadelphia Orchestra in 1934, it received a standing ovation—although it later fell into obscurity, as musicologist Gwynne Kuhner Brown writes in a 2012 article in Journal of the Society for American Music. She bore him one son who died in infancy. Maria Magdalena van Beethoven, née Keverich (19 December 1746 – 17 July 1787)[1] was the wife of the Bonn court musician Johann van Beethoven, and the mother of the composer Ludwig van Beethoven. Many organizations are working to remedy the imbalance: Nwanoku founded the Chineke! And in the United States, the Detroit-based Sphinx Organization supports young black and Latinx classical musicians. Amanda Aldridge. Many scholars of black studies and musicology, meanwhile, have found no substantial evidence exists that Beethoven had African ancestry. Today, the classical music landscape continues to be overwhelmingly white and male, classical musician Chi-chi Nwanoku wrote in a Guardian op-ed last year. Instead of programming Beethoven's 5th another time, why aren't musicians performing their works? Thurman, a professor at the University of Michigan, hopped onto Twitter to share her perspective on the conversation in a thread, which went viral last week. Thus, by the age of 18, Maria was already a widow and mother - which certainly counted against her when Johann van Beethoven introduced her to his father, the Kapellmeister. Foundation to create better opportunities for black composers in the United Kingdom and Europe, per the organization’s website. Ihr Vater Johann Heinrich Keverich (1701–1759) war Oberhofkoch im Dienste der Trierer Kurfürsten, die im Schloss Philippsburg in Ehrenbreitstein residierten. According to the Beethoven's neighbour, Gottfried … “But then what happens in some ways is they get rendered invisible, because they don’t necessarily fit the narratives of what Europe is supposed to be like in the 19th and 20th centuries.”. In November 1765 her husband died. But the argument has sticking power, in part because it’s a provocative one. In short: probably not. The social media conversation about Beethoven’s origins was sparked by a resurfaced 2015 article in The Concordian, the student-run publication for Concordia College, reports J’na Jefferson for The Root. [2][3], Maria Magdalena was the youngest of their six children. The United States also has a long tradition of black classical composers, perhaps most famous among them being William Grant Still (1895-1978) and his “Afro-American Symphony,” one of the most popular American symphonies of all time. Chevalier de St. George. The Twitterverse erupted into a debate earlier this week after an old theory regarding Ludwig van Beethoven resurfaced online. Maria Magdalena van Beethoven (* 19. Bridgetower (c. 1780-1860), the son of a Caribbean father and a German mother, was a child prodigy who excelled at the violin, according to the University of Cambridge. From 1733, Johann was head cook at the court of the Elector of Trier, who resided at Schloss Philippsburg [de] in Ehrenbreitstein. Cookie Policy Those who argue in favor of Beethoven’s black heritage point to contemporary accounts of his likeness that describe the composer in ways stereotypically associated with people of African descent.