In an interview with CelloBello, cellist Marika Hughes accused Kronberg Academy director Raimund Trenkler of racism and “gross mistreatment” at the cello competition that bears her family name, the Feuermann Grand Prix in Germany.
Hughes is the granddaughter of Emanuel Feuermann and a woman of mixed race black and Jewish descent. In the interview, Hughes recounts the closing event of the inaugural Feuermann Grand Prix in 2002, when Trenkler demanded that she leave her seat in the front row and stand in the back of the hall, “to the horror and dismay of my family.”
Hughes’ mistreatment also prompted her grandmother, Eva Feuermann Lehnsen, to write a letter of complaint against Trenkler and his behavior.
Hughes also released an additional statement on Facebook explaining further mistreatment by Trenkler and diplomatically calling for a “long overdue” conversation about race in the classical music world.
“I will welcome the opportunity to one day sit down in person with Mr Trenkler and discuss the unkind ways in which he and his academy have treated me. I believe that this discussion could lead to a mature and important dialogue about race in classical music, long overdue.
Racism is real and pervasive and in every corner of the world.
No one is free from the colonial shadow we all live in.”
In response to Hughes’ interview and accusations, Trenkler released a short statement that said:
“I deeply regret to hear that Marika Hughes felt hurt in 2002. We were delighted about her accepting our invitations to the Grand Prix Emanuel Feuermann in 2006 and 2010 and to have her as our guest there representing the Feuermann family.
“I am sorry for not having invited Marika Hughes as a cellist for artistic reasons.
“Now I am stunned at the accusations she is putting forward against me. I certainly did not set up the Kronberg Academy to put any people above others. Just the opposite is the case: 24 young soloists from 16 nations are studying at the Kronberg Academy. We feel highly committed to the humanistic heritage of Pablo Casals, Mstislav Rostropovich and Emanuel Feuermann.”
It was partly Hughes’ heritage that prompted her to speak up (again—she also alluded to the mistreatment in a 2016 interview with The Jewish Week.) In the closing lines of her powerful Facebook post, she writes:
“I would be dishonoring the lives and legacies of my grandparents, Emanuel & Eva Feuermann and Claude & Maudelle Hughes as well as my parents, Marvin Hughes and Monica Feuermann Hughes, if I were to keep quiet any longer.”