Wednesday, December 31, 2008

José Silvestre White y Lafitte, Afro-Cuban Composer & Violinist Born Dec. 31, 1835

[Cancion Sin Palabras; La bella Cubana; Martha Marchena, piano; MSR 1054 (2002)]

José Silvestre White, or José Silvestre White y Lafitte, was an Afro-Cuban violinist who became a composer and professor after graduating from the Paris Conservatory. He is profiled at AfriClassical.com His mother was Afro-Cuban and his father Spanish. Josephine Wright, Professor of Music at the College of Wooster, in Wooster, Ohio has published an article Violinist José White in Paris, 1855-1875, in Black Music Research Journal, Vol. 10, No. 2, Fall 1990. She explains that White's earliest training in music came from Don Carlos White, his father, who was an amateur violinist. She adds that his subsequent teachers were José Miguel Roman and Pedro Lecerff, and his first concert took place in Matanzas on March 21, 1854. Prof. Wright notes that White's accompanist was the prominent New Orleans composer and pianist Louis Moreau Gottschalk (1829-1869), and that he raised the travel expenses for the young man's trip to Paris.

The article tells of José White's success at the Paris Conservatory, as evidenced by his First Grand Prize in Violin on July 29, 1856. White joined the faculty of the Paris Conservatory, and later toured the Americas from 1875-1877. We learn from Prof. Wright that he appeared with the New York Philharmonic twice during the 1875-1876 season, and also performed in Boston, Washington and Philadelphia. Prof. Wright tells us José White served as director of the Imperial Conservatory in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil from 1877 to 1889, when she reports he returned to live in Paris until his death in 1918. Gordon Root gives an overview of White's surviving sheet music in Africana Encyclopedia: “Many of his works still survive today, including a concerto, a string quartet, a collection of studies for violin, and several nationalistic pieces such as Marcha cubana, and perhaps his most famous composition, the habanera (a Cuban dance in slow duple time) La Bella cubana.”

A full catalogue of José White's surviving compositions has been compiled by Dr. Dominique-René de Lerma, Professor of Music at Lawrence University. It is found in the same issue of Black Music Research Journal as Prof. Wright's article. One recording of the music of José White is Violin Concertos By Black Composers of the 18th and 19th Centuries, Cedille 90000 035 (1997), which includes his Violin Concerto in F-sharp Minor (21:34) performed by Rachel Barton, violin and the Encore Chamber Orchestra led by Daniel Hege, Conductor. Another CD is Cancion Sin Palabras, MSR 1054 (2002). José White is represented by La Bella Cubana, performed on piano by Martha Marchena. The website of the IberoAmerica Ensemble features audio and video versions of La Bella Cubana: http://www.iberoamericamusic.com/repertoire/bella-cubana-jose-white.html





 

1 comment:

violinhunter said...

Good post. It is said Lafitte was born on January 17, 1836. Who knows?