For music buffs who think there is little in common between the music of classical composer Ludwig van Beethoven and African American pianist Eubie Blake, Howard University professor Raymond Jackson can tell them a thing or two. According to Jackson, Beethovenâ€™s Sonata No. 32, Opus 111, â€œhas a rag rhythm that you hear in Blakeâ€™s â€˜The Charleston Rag,â€™ written over 100 years later. There has been some speculation that Beethoven had a Moorish heritage. Could that driving rhythm that he used, that is so characteristically African, be proof?â€
Jackson has devoted his life to researching and reviving composers of color, especially music for the piano, and will perform as part of the Strathmoreâ€™s Music in the Mansion series, â€œA Celebration of the Piano: From Bach to Boogie-Woogie and Beyond,â€ Tues., Feb. 10, at 7:30 p.m., in the Mansion, 10701 Rockville Pike, Bethesda, Md.
His concert, titled â€œFrom Beethoven to Eubie Blake: Discoveries and Connections,â€ features rarely performed music by Samuel Coleridge-Taylor, Hall Johnson and Frederick Eliot Lewis, and is a continuation of the series that charts the development of the piano.
A Howard University professor for the past 32 years, Jackson will present a lecture/recital that will show Beethovenâ€™s influence on a number of musicians of color, while presenting works for the keyboard by some European composers, as well. These include Frederic Chopin, Franz Liszt and Robert Schumann.
â€œI want to show the common thread and parallels in their music because of Beethovenâ€™s influence,â€ said Jackson, a child prodigy who later obtained many firsts as a young African American concert pianist.
The son of parents who encouraged his love for music, Jackson grew up in Providence, R.I. and later graduated from Julliard and the New England Conservatory of Music, where he graduated first in his class. He comes from a long line of musicians, noting â€œmy great grandfather produced operattas, and he was one of the first to teach Whites to play the violin.â€
In his Strathmore program, Jackson will play Schummanâ€™s â€œScenes From Childhood, Opus 15â€ and will show the parallel between Frederick Eliot Lewisâ€™ â€œScenes of Youth: Fantasia for Piano, Opus 3.â€ His offering of Lizstâ€™s â€œWidmungâ€ will juxtapose
Coleridge-Taylorâ€™s â€œDeep River,â€ a Negro spiritual.
Called â€œeloquentâ€ by The New York Times, pianist with a passion for the past,
Jackson will show the parallel between Chopinâ€™s â€œPolonaise in A Flat, Opus 59,â€ and Hall Johnsonâ€™s mimicking of that in â€œPolonaise: Chopin in Harlem.â€
Jackson said that he is excited about presenting the Feb. 10 program, â€œbecause itâ€™s not talked about often,â€ in classical circles. Regarding the future, he noted that many African American students are going less into classical musical â€œand lean more to gospel and jazz.â€
â€œThere are more opportunities today than when I came along, but the jazz and gospel influence is very strong today and many students gravitate towards that. Many learn by ear, and they donâ€™t want to go through the discipline of playing classical music,â€ he said.
The Mansion at Strathmore is located one-half mile north of the Capital Beltway and immediately adjacent to the Grosvenor-Strathmore station on Metroâ€™s Red Line.
Performances are in the Dorothy and Maurice C. Shapiro Music Room. Tickets are $25 for general admission, and may be purchased online at www.strathmore.org, or by calling the Strathmore Ticket Office at 301-581-5100.