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HU Professor€s Show Parallels Beethoven and Musicians of Color

Edith Billups | 2/4/2009, 10:44 p.m.

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, Beethoven€s Sonata No. 32, Opus 111, €has a rag rhythm that you hear in Blake€s €The Charleston Rag,€ 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?€

Jackson has devoted his life to researching and reviving composers of color, especially music for the piano, and will perform as part of the Strathmore€s Music in the Mansion series, €A Celebration of the Piano: From Bach to Boogie-Woogie and Beyond,€ Tues., Feb. 10, at 7:30 p.m., in the Mansion, 10701 Rockville Pike, Bethesda, Md.
His concert, titled €From Beethoven to Eubie Blake: Discoveries and Connections,€ 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 Beethoven€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.

€I want to show the common thread and parallels in their music because of Beethoven€s influence,€ 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 €my great grandfather produced operattas, and he was one of the first to teach Whites to play the violin.€

In his Strathmore program, Jackson will play Schumman€s €Scenes From Childhood, Opus 15€ and will show the parallel between Frederick Eliot Lewis€ €Scenes of Youth: Fantasia for Piano, Opus 3.€ His offering of Lizst€s €Widmung€ will juxtapose
Coleridge-Taylor€s €Deep River,€ a Negro spiritual.

Called €eloquent€ by The New York Times, pianist with a passion for the past,
Jackson will show the parallel between Chopin€s €Polonaise in A Flat, Opus 59,€ and Hall Johnson€s mimicking of that in €Polonaise: Chopin in Harlem.€

Jackson said that he is excited about presenting the Feb. 10 program, €because it€s not talked about often,€ in classical circles. Regarding the future, he noted that many African American students are going less into classical musical €and lean more to gospel and jazz.€

€There 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 don€t want to go through the discipline of playing classical music,€ 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 Metro€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.