José White Lafitte

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José White in 1856 after receiving the 1st prize for violin at the Conservatoire de Paris

José Silvestre White Lafitte (17 January 1836, in Matanzas, Cuba – 12–15 March 1918, Paris, France), also known as Joseph White, was a Cuban-French violinist and composer.


His father Don Carlos White was Spanish and his mother was Afro-Cuban.[1]

After receiving early musical training from his father, who was an amateur violinist, José White gave his first concert in Matanzas on 21 March 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".[2] José White studied at the Paris Conservatory, initially with Jean-Delphin Alard, between the years 1855 and 1871, winning the 1856 First Grand Prize.[3] He became a French citizen in 1870,[3] 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.[4] Afterwards he returned to Paris to spend the rest of his days. The famous 1737 "Swansong" Stradivari was his instrument.


Mainly written for his own instrument, White's output comprised some 30 works, including a virtuosic Violin Concerto in F♯ Minor, recorded in 1975 by Aaron Rosand and in 1997 by Rachel Barton Pine.[5][6] Other works include La Bella Cubana (a habanera for two violins and orchestra), La Jota Aragonesa (Op.5), and several sets of violin Études, of which Josephine Wright wrote:

"Collectively, these études are striking for their melodic content as well as their technical difficulty, and they give insight into the virtuosic skills of their creator."[6]


  1. ^ "José Silvestre White, Afro-Cuban Composer, Violinist & Professor",
  2. ^ Josephine Wright, "Violinist José White in Paris, 1855-1875", in Black Music Research Journal, Vol. 10, No. 2, Fall 1990.
  3. ^ a b Boyadjiev, Yavet (19 June 2018). "An introduction to Joseph White and his six etudes". London: The Strad. Archived from the original on 19 June 2018. Retrieved 7 September 2020.
  4. ^ Miguel Ficher, et al, Latin American Classical Composers, Scarecrow Press, 1996, p. 373.
  5. ^ "Concerto for violin and orchestra [sound recording] / José White". Catalog. Penn State University Libraries. 1975. Retrieved 8 September 2020.
  6. ^ a b Floyd, Samuel A (Jr) (2017). The transformation of black music : the rhythms, the songs, and the ships that make the African diaspora. Oxford University Press. p. 60. ISBN 978-0195307245. Retrieved 8 September 2020.

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