Wednesday, June 6, 2012

'The Jiménez family of black classical musicians from Cuba'

[Jose Manuel (Lico) Jiménez-Berroa (1855-1917) (Photo from The Black Perspective in Music, from]

On June 2, 2012 we received a fascinating and highly informative email from George Friedman-Jiménez, M.D., with the Subject line "The Jiménez family of black classical musicians from Cuba."  Dr. Friedman-Jiménez is the descendant of Afro-Cuban classical composers and instrumentalists who were previously unknown to us.  Pictured above is his great-grandfather, the composer and pianist Jose Manuel (Lico) Jiménez-Berroa (1855-1917).  Below are the email we received on June 2, 2012 and a brief excerpt from the beginning of Dr. Josephine Wright's journal article on the Black Jiménez Trio in Europe in The Black Perspective in Music, Autumn, 1981.  We have replied to George Friedman-Jiménez, M.D. and have expressed our great interest in learning of his additional information and material, including recordings.  

I just saw your fascinating website as I was doing a web search on my greatgrandfather pianist and composer Jose Manuel (Lico) Jimenez Berroa. You might be interested in the story of our ancestors in the 19th century, the Jimenez and Berroa families from Cuba. Although my mother played violin and her father Adolfo Jimenez played cello, neither my mother nor I ever met my greatgrandfather as he passed away several years before she was born, and many years before I was born. My mother has passed down to me information she learned from her father about her grandfather Lico Jimenez. Lico Jimenez’ father was violinist Jose Julian Jimenez, his brother was cellist Nicasio Jimenez, and the three of them had a trio that toured Europe in the 1870s.

“I have attached a very interesting article by musicologist Josephine Wright that summarizes much of the European tour careers of the Jimenez Trio in the 1870s. Ultimately Lico Jimenez left Cuba permanently as there were few career opportunities for a black classical pianist and composer in Cuba at that time, and he became professor in the Hamburg Conservatory of Music in Germany. Some sources I have read said he was director of the conservatory, but my mother is not sure whether that is true or not.

“I have several recordings of compositions of Lico Jimenez and a few manuscripts of pieces he wrote, and one of his pieces was recently performed by Aurelio de la Vega (Cal State Northridge) and Anna Maria Ketcham.

“Jose Julian Jimenez was married to the sister of Catalina Berroa, who was another very interesting black Cuban classical musician and conductor. She was Lico Jimenez’ aunt and first piano teacher. She played many instruments, was a renowned music teacher, and in the 19th century was the first woman to direct an orchestra in Cuba.

“Both the Jimenez and the Berroa sides of the family helped break down racial and gender barriers in classical music in Cuba in the 19th century, so I thought you would be interested in some of this history as I did not see mention of either of these families on your website. I have some additional references I could send you if you are interested in finding out more.

“Thank you for your most interesting website, and I look forward to hearing from you.
Best regards,
George Friedman-Jiménez”

The following citation is provided for the journal article by the musicologist Josephine Wright, whose article appeared in The Black Perspective in Music and can now be accessed via

"Das Negertrio" Jimenez in Europe Author(s): Josephine Wright Source: The Black Perspective in Music, Vol. 9, No. 2 (Autumn, 1981), pp. 161-176 Stable URL: Accessed: 19/06/2010 23:51 

Das Negertrio Jimenez in Europe*
AMONG THE RANKS of nineteenth-century virtuosos, one encounters the names of six Afro-Cubans who concertized professionally in Europe in the field of classical instrumental music-violinists Joseph White (1836-1918); Claudio Brindis de Salas (1852-1911), called "El rey de las octavas"; Joseph R. Brindis (fl. ca. 1880), known as the "Colored Remenyi"; and the Jimenez family, a group of three musicians consisting of the father, violinist Jose Julian Jimenez (1833-ca. 1890, or thereafter), and his sons, violoncellist Nicasio Jimenez (d. 1891) and pianist Jose Manuel Jimenez-Berroa (1855-1917). Of these musicians, the Jimenez's are relatively unknown to twentieth-century historians.
Educated in Germany at the Leipzig Conservatory, members of this musical family founded one of the earliest professional all-black chamber ensembles and toured Europe successfully in the 1870s, specializing in the performance of music by nineteenth-century romantic composers.

"In this paper I purpose to reconstruct the history of the Jimenez Trio in Europe. I will examine the biography of the Afro-Cuban musicians, consider their musical training, and investigate European reaction to them in order to obtain some measure for evaluating the impact of the Negertrio upon concert life in Europe in the 1870s."

"*This paper was prepared for presentation at the Second National Conference
of Black Music Research, 17-19 September 1981, at Fisk University, Nashville,

1 comment:

John Malveaux said...

Dr Hansonia Caldwell refers to the Black Diaspora. Information like "The Jimenez family of black classical musicians from Cuba" points me the acceptance and use of the term.