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Sun, 01.17.1836

José White Lafitte, Classical Musician born

José White Lafitte

*José Silvestre White Lafitte was born on this date in 1836.  Also known as Joseph White, he was an Afro Cuban, French violinist and composer.  

Born in in Matanzas, Cuba, his father Don Carlos White was Spanish, and his mother was Afro-Cuban.  After receiving early musical training from his father, who was an amateur violinist, White gave his first concert in Matanzas on March 21, 1854. He was accompanied by the visiting American pianist-composer Louis Moreau Gottschalk, "who encouraged him to pursue further violin studies in Paris and raised money for him to travel there".  White studied at the Paris Conservatory, initially with Jean-Delphin Alard, between the years 1855 and 1871, winning the 1856 First Grand Prize.  

He became a French citizen in 1870 and was highly praised by Rossini.  From 1877 to 1889 White was director of the Imperial Conservatory in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, where he served as court musician for the Emperor Pedro II.  In 1889 he returned to Paris where he taught violin, composed music, and performed concerts.  Some of his more famous students were Jacque Thibaud and George Enescu. 

José White died in Paris on March 12, 1918. He was 83. Cuba issued a postage stamp with his likeness in 1958 to honor him.  His music has recently seen a revival in two recordings, Violin Concertos by Black Composers of the 18th and 19th Centuries (1997) and Cancion Sin Palabras (2002), and in 21st Century performances by The IberoAmerica Ensemble. 

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