Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Joshua Nemith On Calliope's Saint-Georges CD

Dr. Joshua S. Nemith is a piano teacher and author of the blog Joshua Nemith's Cincinnati Pianist. He has written to Harmonia Mundi USA, the U.S. distributor for the Calliope record label, concerning the cover art on the Saint-Georges CD Calliope 9373 (2007), and has made his letter available to AfriClassical:

Subject: Cover art on Calliope 9373 (2007)
Date: Wed, 25 Jul 2007 11:56:00 -0400

To Whom it may concern:

I am writing to express an opinion about the cover art on the following album: Monsieur de Saint-George: 4 Concertos pour violon, Calliope 9373 (2007), performed by Les Archets de Paris.

I understand that Harmonia Mundi USA is Calliope's US distributor. I learned of this relationship via William Zick's blog and companion website AfriClassical ( and

I think it would be against the interests of all the parties involved to distribute this album with its current art cover, which depicts Saint-Georges in a caricature-like manner reminiscent of racist "blackface" techniques used decades ago. Saint-Georges is presented in clownish polka-dot attire which does not reflect accurately when compared to the portraiture of this artist in his own time. In my opinion, it is easy to interpret Saint-Georges' depiction as an "eyesore", admired as a talented entertainer by "normal" whitefolk who nevertheless see him as a freakish inferior.

While I remain adamantly against any condonement of censorship, I see this as addressing a different issue: one of sensitivity to the reality of racial injustices and prejudices of our recent history. Cover art like this reveals astonishing insensitivity and will convince too many that the classical music business continues to marginalize people of color.

Harmonia Mundi has an opportunity here to show the world that it is ready to move into the 21st century with renewed respect and admiration for musicians of color from any time period. I hope that Harmonia Mundi and Calliope will make the right decision by removing and replacing the current cover art on this album (Calliope 9373).


Dr. Joshua S. Nemith
Visit my weblog: "">Joshua Nemith's Cincinnati Pianist

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