German star wants Beethoven exhumed for racial DNA test

German star wants Beethoven exhumed for racial DNA test


norman lebrecht

October 03, 2021

The German singer Roberto Blanco has written to the Mayor of Vienna asking for Beethoven’s remains to be exhumed ‘so that we can see if he looks more like you or me.’

This is the latest pot-shot in a long-running war on Beethoven’s enthnicity (to be discussed in my next book).

Blanco, a Tunisian of Afro-Cuban origin, began his singing career with Josephine Baker and enjoyed a string of hits in the German charts, most famously with ‘Heute so, morgen so’ in 1969. He is 84 and much loved.

Beethoven’s maternal grandmother had Spanish origins, possibly Moorish. His pigmentation was darker that average north German.



  • Perhaps no need to dig Ludwig up. A lock of his hair might already be available.

    I can imagine the horror the ever present Breitbart crowd would have were it found that Beethoven were partially African. To say nothing of certain political quarters in Vienna.

    • Bone says:

      Fascinating. Race seems to be the only thing that matters to you anti-racist folks.

    • sam says:

      What is relevant is not that Beethoven turns out to be black, but the historical whitewashing of people to be NOT black, that begins with one’s own family to keep hidden certain relatives and ancestors, that expands to societies promoting the superiority of a supposedly pure white culture.

    • Barry Guerrero says:

      There allegedly IS Beethoven hair at the Beethoven Center, located on the campus of San Jose State University. I know, because one of my best friends gets driven crazy by people constantly coming in and wanting only to look at the hair.

  • Pianofortissimo says:

    Mr Lebrecht,

    Can you tell us more about your next book?


  • Anon says:

    If that gets the woke mob to stop bashing musicians who program Beethoven, so be it.
    I hope Beethoven’s DNA shows that he was 100% black, so that we may unabashedly enjoy his music again.

    • Bone says:

      That is a fine point: virtue signalers would crow over this “victory” and (hopefully) lead a renewed interest in performing his music (but maybe a moratorium could be declared on a few symphonies and piano sonatas that are overplayed).

      • True North says:

        Look at it another way: if it turned out that Beethoven had some non-European DNA, I’m sure the anti-woke sleepers on here would be crowing to have him cancelled. I recall the recent furore over the music of Florence Price being programmed by a major orchestra for the first time. How dare they give even one hearing to music by a Black woman!

        • Bone says:

          I do need to give those pieces a listen – I’m sure Philly does an admirable job.

          • BigSir says:

            It’s not just Philly. Multiple concerts of her music being played by other major symphonies . She is the Black Female Beethoven we’ve all been waiting for (sarcastic). I thought the #3 played by Philly was quite good (sincere).

          • Joel Lazar says:

            I conducted Price #3 in February 2019, with great pleasure to myself, orchestra and audience. My personal opinion is that this is a more convincing work than any of the other surviving symphonies; when life returns to a semblance of normality, we’ll perform the Piano Concerto, which seems now to be available in its original, once-lost orchestration.

          • Bone says:

            It started off nicely, then…dunno. Well played, but I’ll get my Dvorak elsewhere.

        • Anthony Sayer says:

          @True North. Wrong. the right doesn’t call for people to be cancelled just because they disagree with them.

    • Novagerio says:

      Anon: Cos if he’s white, you’ll of course enjoy it less…right….

  • Armchair Bard says:

    …and the guy’s name is Blanco. So black is white and white (Ludwig) is black. A paradigm for our times!

    • Anthony Sayer says:

      Whichever suits the lobotomised left (sorry, pleonasm).

      • Sue Sonata Form says:

        Completely lacking in both sociological imagination and economic progressivism, what in the world would you expect? They play the only game they know; divide and conquer.

    • V. Lind says:

      That’s a bit fatuous. You don’t know of any white people called Black? I have also worked with white people called Green, Blue and Brown, as well as the odd White.

      • John Borstlap says:

        We once had a gardener here, an immigrant from Poland who had gotten into trouble with the local Piss party, of the name Samuel Rainbow. Shows how dangerous words can be!


      • Armchair Bard says:

        Blimey, VL! It’s just a little whimsy on a coincidence of oppositions; so your remarks on colour are off target.

        Read it again (won’t take long). See? Now pour yerself a large glass, sit down, and lighten up. Cheers!

      • Anthony Sayer says:

        All we need is a few communists, cowards and centrist socialists and we could have a game of snooker.

      • Ashu says:

        Here in Pune, India, there’s a Brahmin surname गोरे goré, “white” or “fair” in Marathi, which was, a little ironically, the name of a noted Sanskrit scholar of about a century ago whose desk I inherited when I was working in a local research institute, and which also happens to correspond with the insulting grammatically neuter form of the word, which was hurled at me thousands of times as I walked the streets in the early years of my residence here, before I eventually tuned it out.

  • Tamino says:

    „Divide and conquer“
    Works like a charme.
    The plutocratic elites manipulate us into divisive mental excercises.
    Along racial lines.
    Between the sexes.
    Everybody at the bottom of the barrel going at each other, rather than attacking the parasites at the top. They laugh all the way to the bank.
    Have a nice Sunday, fellow barrel bottom dwellers.

    • Sue Sonata Form says:

      And along comes a cognitively enfeebled President who talks about ‘uniny’. With his trusty palm cards, of course.

  • Timmy says:

    Oh yes…THAT’LL happen…

  • BRUCEB says:

    That would be interesting, even if it was done just to indulge somebody’s (or some movement’s) pet theory — which would make it even more fun if there turned out to be some African DNA in there after all. I wonder if the lock of hair would be sufficient, or if it would have to be a bone sample.

    • John Borstlap says:

      Strictly speaking, ALL of humanity has bits of African DNA since ALL humans stem from a quite adventurous and restless tribe in subsahara steppes. It’s the neanderthal DNA which slipped into the gene pool later-on that sometimes in destructive fashion bubbles-up in contemporary people, as can be seen on this site.

  • Booster Shot 99 says:

    Melanin. The secret behind Op.111

  • Gustavo says:

    The Oscar Peterson of Vienna

  • I first thought this was a piece from The Onion, but I should have learned by now that anything woke gets publicity whether or not it deserves it. This is along the lines of those who hear
    gayness in some composer’s music. Next we’ll have a PhD thesis explaining the technical aspects of a piece that prove homosexuality. None of this has anything to do with racial or gender pride. it is nothing but the insufficiently filled ego looking for public acclaim and stopping at nothing to get its
    opinions adopted regardless of merit or validity. We are living in an intellectual Dark Age, where merit, achievement, intelligence and artistic talent count for nothing. The obsession with race is in essence a confession that the individual has nothing else that warrants attention or praise. Wokesters tear down monuments to achievement and substitute mediocrities and unworthy idols to poke intellectuals in the eye. Anti intellectualism is now considered de rigeur, au courant; it is the failed and unaccomplished whose mental void gets
    put on the pedestal. The collapse of the Roman empire has nothing on the collapse of western civilization brought on by
    foaming at the mouth minorities who contribute nothing but
    social conflict to society.

    • John Borstlap says:

      Once I was exposed, against my will, to a string quartet by, I think Ravel, and in the 2nd movement I surely got the impression the man must have been gay. It was an embarrassing moment & couldn’t listen any longer to the rest of the piece. People should be more cautious with programming! Or advise parental advice in advance or in the programme booklet.


      • MJA says:

        Mr Borstlap – I’m hoping that you’ve just taken irony to a whole new level, because otherwise your comment about Ravel (you think) is offensive and I’m surprised it’s been posted. I hope that you or NL will please disabuse me.

    • An anti-absolutist says:

      But I assume you care about other aspects of Beethoven’s biography, such as his intense spirituality, his “immortal beloved,” his revolutionary spirit, and everything else that enabled his music to communicate so powerfully to his, and our, world. So how is this any different?

    • An anti-absolutist says:

      But I assume you care about other aspects of Beethoven’s biography, such as his intense spirituality, his “immortal beloved,” his revolutionary spirit, and anything else in his life that enabled him to communicate so powerfully to his world and ours. So how is this any different?

    • BRUCEB says:

      I think there actually was a thesis or something once, about how Handel’s (or was it Haydn’s) voice-leading (or was it contrapuntal technique) showed that he was gay. I can’t remember exactly because it was too silly.

  • John Borstlap says:

    I propose that ALL European composers from, say, Machaut onwards, will be dug-up & the remains checked on PC and African dna. Afterwards we can extend all music history resources with reassuring information, either way. This will finally stop all the quarrels about racist classical music.

    It may be of woke interest to mention that LvB was an ‘outdoor person’ with daily walks in Viennese woodland surroundings, winter & summer, even with rainy weather. Therefore his complexion gave the impression of a peasant’s: weathered by the elements and rather dark. How much of it was the result of the amorous caprices of his ancestors? Entirely irrelevant.

  • Anthony Sayer says:

    By discussing this, we’re facilitating this idiocy.

  • Lausitzer says:

    Ein bißchen Spaß muß sein …

  • Corno di Caccia says:

    This is the most preposterous thing I’ve read on here. As if it really matters whether Luddy was black or white, or a mix of both. It certainly doesn’t help one to appreciate his wonderful music that has the power to heal all creeds and colours across such divides. Look at contemporary portraits of Beethoven and get your answer. As for a lock of Beethoven’s hair, the book written about that whole episode – and the subsequent documentary film – were the most boring things I’ve ever subjected myself to and hardly proved conclusive.
    As for Florence Price, what I’ve heard from her pen is boring and that probably explains why it was ignored for so long.
    Play any of Beethoven’s piano pieces and experience Black and White coming together in a glorious union. Oooh, come to mention it, didn’t that other musical luminary Paul McCartney co-write a song about Ebony and Ivory going together in perfect harmony side by side on his piano keyboard? Oh, Lord, why can’t we?
    Leave Luddy to rest in peace. The Germans should answer this bizarre request with an emphatic… NEIN!

  • japecake says:

    Just a reminder that musicologist Susan McClary made her bones with a claim likening a dissonance in the last movement of Beethoven’s Ninth to rape—then, naturally, backpedaling under pressure—so she already did her part to loosen the jar for equally bizarre claims like “Beethoven is actually black, tho.”

  • Pianofortissimo says:

    Beethoven’s maternal grandmother’s “Spanish origin” would be Sephardic Jewish more probably than Moorish. Many “Marranos” (forced conversos) moved from Spain or Portugal to the Netherlands in the XVI Century, where they reversed to Judaism.

    Of course, it’s just speculation.

  • Gustavo says:

    Wasn’t Sergej Prokofiev nicknamed “White Negro”?

    I think all composers would need genetic screening to clarify their actual origin.

    • Pianofortissimo says:

      Billy: ‘I always had a preference for music by composers of high octanic Neanderthal stock.’

      Frank: ‘I keep to those with genetic predisposition for glottalizated singing. Much more “ethnic”‘.

      Master Yoda: ‘Never mind. Terrestrial genes are all the same…’

  • Novagerio says:

    Desecrating the dead in the name of politics – if one can call the wokes “politics”…
    Utterly disgusting.

  • Gustavo says:

    Mahler was clearly a Chinaman.

  • Alan Glick says:

    Why would any self-respecting Black want Beethoven to be a member of his race since it’s been proven by a fellow woke “scholar” that Beethoven’s 9th Symphony celebrated rape culture?

  • Gustavo says:

    Ludwig “von” sums him up.

  • Jimmie says:

    Will the insanity ever cease?

  • Kyle A Wiedmeyer says:

    Someone should definitely tell Mr. Blanco that if Beethoven does have Moorish ancestry, well, he wouldn’t look like him anyway because the Moors weren’t black. And he would look less like the average Moor because he was two generations removed.

  • Alexander T says:

    I am part North African myself and can tell you this much:
    Moors are not Black and do not look anything like Mr.Blanco.
    If Beethoven’s mother had Chinese origins, would we be calling Beethoven an Asian or Chinese composer?
    Besides: I thought that Beethoven, the “above-coverage composer” was a symbol of White privilege and supremacy (Philip Ewell CUNY).
    This obsession with Beethoven……