Thursday, December 30, 2010

Afro-Cuban Violinist José White Born Dec. 31, 1835; 1st Prize for Violin at Paris Conservatory

[Afro-Cuban violinist and composer José White. Shown here after he received the 1st prize for violin at the Conservatoire de Paris in 1856. Bibliothèque Nationale de France; Wikipedia]

José Silvestre White, aka José Silvestre White y Lafitte, was an Afro-Cuban composer, violinist and professor who is profiled at His mother was Afro-Cuban and his father Spanish. Josephine Wright, Professor of Music at the College of Wooster, in Wooster, Ohio published an article Violinist José White in Paris, 1855-1875, in Black Music Research Journal, Vol. 10, No. 2, Fall 1990. The article tells of José White's success at the Paris Conservatory, as evidenced by his First Grand Prize in Violin, the occasion for the above photograph:

“Thriving in such an enriching, stimulating environment, José White excelled. After just one year of study, he won the Paris Conservatory's highest award in violin, the coveted First Grand Prize. That competition took place on July 29, 1856, and was reviewed by Le Pays on August 5:

'The competition for violin [at the Conservatory] has offered a beautiful spectacle this year, being the most brilliant struggle. The first grand prize was conceded to Mr. White, pupil of Alard, and the second [prize] to Mr. [Aimé] Gros, from the same class... Mr. White showed himself [so] superior that there should have been created a grand exceptional prize in his favor. He performed with an extraordinary animation, not like a pupil but as a great artist who commands his audience. The jury itself was electrified" (Ramirez 1891, 178).'

A full catalogue of José White's surviving compositions has been compiled by Prof. Dominique-René de Lerma, Professor of Music at Lawrence University Conservatory. 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.

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