Cuban composer & violinist | January 1836 – March 1918
Afro-Cuban Composer Jose Silvestre White was born in Matanzas, Cuba in 1835. As a child, he began violin lessons with his father, an amateur violinist. He showed exceptional abilities as a young musician, and eventually went to study at the National Conservatoire in Paris, where he won the First Grand Prize for Violin after only one year of study.
Silvestre White remained in Paris and lived there for most of his life. He went on a long concert tour in 1875-1877, performing in the United States and South America, and worked as the director of the Imperial Conservatory in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil from 1877 to 1889, and then returned to Paris until his death in 1918. He remains well known in Cuba today. Our own Yorkwoods Centre Director, Vlad Morffis, studied at the “Conservatorio de Música José White” in the city of Camaguey.
The first movement of White’s Violin Concerto shows off his skills as a violinist and composer, with virtuosic writing for the violin soloist. The music is typical of the early romantic period, with lots of beautiful tunes, and plenty of chances for the violinist to show off. La Bella Cubana is White’s most famous piece today. It is played often in Latin America and beyond, in arrangements for orchestra. La Bella Cubana is a Habanera, a dance that was popular in Cuba during White’s lifetime.
Credit: Sistema Toronto