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George Pinto (25 September 1785 – 23 March 1806) was an English composer and keyboard virtuoso.
He was baptised at St. Mary's, Lambeth on 11 February 1786 as George Sanders. Accounts of Pinto's life and character are tenuous. There seems to be no surviving correspondence, nor did he have any descendants preserving a family tradition. His father, Samuel Sanders (or Saunders) died young, and it was from his mother, Julia Sanders (née Pinto) that he took not only his surname but also his musical upbringing. He had no siblings, (certainly none that lived past infancy), and received lavish affection from his mother and step-grandmother, the English singer Charlotte Brent (1735–1802). His mother's father, Thomas Pinto (1714-c.1780) was a well-known London violinist who had fled to England for political reasons and was the son of a civil servant to the King of Naples. His first wife was the daughter of a German pastor, and the grandmother of George, but it was his second wife, Charlotte Brent, who saw George through his childhood.
George Pinto was an exceptionally gifted child, who began studying violin at a very early age, and started taking lessons, aged 8, with Johann Salomon, who had moved to London in the early 1780s, and had been pivotal in bringing Haydn to the London music scene, so his interest in Pinto carries much weight. In 1786, aged just 10, Salomon organised for Pinto to play a violin concerto at Signora Salvini's benefit concert. Following this, he made frequent appearances in London, Oxford, Cambridge, Bath, Edinburgh and twice travelled to Paris. Indeed, his usual concert appearances were as soloist for a violin concerto, sometimes written by Salomon, Kreutzer, Giovanni Mane Giornovichi or even himself.
Piano was, from the outset, Pinto's second instrument, but although his concert appearances were mainly as a violinist, he admitted himself that the piano was his favoured instrument. In January 1803 at Phillip Corri's Edinburgh concerts, Pinto took the place of an injured Corri as soloist for piano concertos, at this time still only 17 years old. One of Pinto's fellow students was John Field, with whom he gave a concert in 1800 and became good friends with, even dedicating a sonata to his 'friend John Field' with whom he shared a love of J. S. Bach.
Pinto's contribution to the piano repertory did not go unnoticed; indeed Salomon later suggested that had he lived longer, Pinto could have gone on to become an English Mozart. His works fall into two categories; earlier and later compositions, which are stylistically quite different. In the earlier works especially, Pinto's inventiveness and outside-of-the-box thinking leads to some musical developments which are well ahead of their time. Many features set him apart from his contemporaries, not just figurative and harmonic daring, but also in his manipulation of larger structural issues, which is quite an achievement for a teenager. This structural freedom is perhaps most clear in his Fantasia and Sonata in C minor, in which a bewildering sequence of short sections and longer movements follows: Adagio-Allegro-Adagio-Fugue-Largo-Allegro. The ending to the Sonata is in C major, an unfortunate ending added by Samuel Wesley in one of his worse moments, but nevertheless, the form of the work is without any obvious precedent, certainly not in the sonatas of Haydn, Mozart or Muzio Clementi.
Pinto also wrote for the violin as well as over 20 songs, some of which have been lost, but appear as advertisements in other scores. For the violin, he wrote four sonatas as well as a violin duet (a kind of duel in the Viotti vein) and a violin concerto, of which there is unfortunately no sign. With it goes evidence of how Pinto might have written for orchestra. Three duets for two violins, published in 1805 as his opus 5, are in the British Library
Pinto's health seems to have started to deteriorate around 1805. He gave his last public appearance in London (at Mademoiselle Merelle's Concert in Willis's Rooms in June) in 1804, and in 1805 he had to withdraw from a benefit concert in Edinburgh. Some evidence suggests that he may have caught tuberculosis whilst in Edinburgh, but in any case he reportedly gave only one of a scheduled series of concerts at Oxford in November 1805. He died in Chelsea, London. Sainsbury's Dictionary of Musicians of 1827 states inaccurately that "this extraordinary genius became a martyr to dissipation about the year 1808", while Carl Pohl (1819–1887), writing in the Grove Dictionary, (1st edition 1879) wrote: "In 1805 his health, never strong suddenly broke down, having been undermined by excesses". Salomon wrote at his death 'If he had lived and been able to resist the allurements of society, England would have had the honour of producing a second Mozart'.
Whatever the causes of death, it is clear from his surviving works that George Pinto was not only a child prodigy, but an individual and inventive composer who is comparable at times to Clementi, Dussek and Field. At the age of 21, he had already written almost 200 pages of manuscript, and, but for an early death, could surely have continued to write some of the most pioneering piano and violin music to come out of England.
Pinto's piano sonatas have been recorded on CD by Thomas Wakefield, Ian Hobson, Riko Fukuda, Miceal O'Rourke and others, while some of his vocal works have been recorded on the Hyperion label.
- Temperley, Nicholas. ed. The London Pianoforte School 1766–1860. (20 vols.) London/New York: Garland, 1985: Contains much of Pinto’s piano music, including the two Grand Sonatas Op.3 and the Fantasia and Sonata amongst others. The first recognition in modern times of Pinto's music.
- Perry, Linda Wagoner; George Frederick Pinto (1989). Three sonatas for pianoforte with violin. Madison, Wisconsin: A-R Editions. ISBN 0-89579-430-6.
- "British Library Integrated Catalogue". Retrieved 12 October 2007.
- Review of CD of Pinto's piano music, played by Thomas Wakefield
- Free scores by George Pinto at the International Music Score Library Project