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José White: A great among musicians

Published: 2013.03.28 - 14:02:38   /  /  Traslated by: René Alonso Ferro

Jose White died on March 12, 1918, at the age of eighty-two." White does not play,-he subjugates" José Martí told, and also added, praising his powers as an interpreter : " This giant artist, for whom art has no invincible difficulty, nor germ of hidden wonders that he can’t play or develop. "

He is frequently reminded from Radio Encyclopedia through his famous play "La Bella Cubana" in the multiple interpretations by artists from around the world. A day like today, but in 1918, José White: Cuban violinist and composer, considered one of the most famous musicians of his age, died in Paris, France, leaving behind him a trail of dreams turned into these tunes we make available to the public from this Cuban radio station.

His real name was José Silvestre de los Dolores White Lafitte. He was born on December 31st, 1935, in Matanzas, fruit of the love between a cult French trader and a black Cuban woman. Without having any technical notion of music he showed a desire to use the violin since he was four. At eight, he was studying the elements of musical art, and at fifteen he was able to compose his first work: a Mass for orchestra.

When he was nineteen years old he knew how to play sixteen musical instruments, including the violin, viola, cello , bass, piano, guitar, flute, and horn. So, it is not surprising that the critic Victor Cochinat, quoted by Sabine Faivre d' Arcier, wrote years later:

"He is not only a composer, but also a thinker, and it is a pleasure to see the justice that public makes to this interpreter as complete as varied, whose slender and slight figure, his frizzy hair, his black eyes, his face tanned by the sun of the Caribbean remind us of one of those bearing the lyre, a contemporary Orpheus [ ...].With the difference that those mythological musicians, no exception for Orpheus, the master, were unable to take out from their instruments effects like that the members of his band and White himself achieved with their violins , cellos, flutes, clarinets and oboes, for our greatest joy and glory of our beloved France. "

This great musician gave his first concert on March 21, 1855, in the city of Matanzas, accompanied by the famous American pianist Luis M. Gottschalk. The following year, in July 1856, he won the first prize in violin at the Paris Conservatoire , through which he was permanently enshrined in the aristocracy of the violin virtuosos. This period of his life would be masterfully narrated in the Gazzete Musicale of August 3, 1856, where it could be read the following words:

" ... We could say the same on the disciple who has won the first Grand Prize of violin, despite being the last in the list of the contestants. The great Viotti´s concert had already been executed nineteen times and despite the great beauties of that classic, the jury began to hear it with some sleepiness. Mr. White has presented himself as a very experienced performer [...]. He played so magnificently the repeated concert that it seems to become a new work, the jury listens to him with greater pleasure and admiration, as if hearing it for the first time and just when White concluded, he is declared the winner by unanimous decision of the Jury »

White returned to Cuba in 1859. He offered a series of concerts in his hometown accompanied by pianist Adolfo Diaz and wrote ¨Cuban Fantasy¨ which was finished in Havana, and also the muse came to him for the ¨Study no. 6, op. 13 for violin¨: La Bella Cubana (Cuban Beauty) and Bolero de concierto (Bolero for concert).

On October 4, 1860, he gave his last concert in Matanzas, and then he returned to Paris and wrote, in 1864, his Concerto in F minor, for violin and orchestra, which was premiered at the Herz Hall.

In 1874 , White made his last trip to Cuba; he gave a concert at the Esteban Theatre ( currently Sauto Theatre) and also performed in Santiago de Cuba . Back in Havana, he was presented, accompanied by pianist Guerrero, in the Tacon Theatre; this would be his last performance in the country. Then he moved to Mexico, and there appeared in the National Theatre of Mexico City and in Puebla , Jalapa and Veracruz .

On October 20, 1875, White arrived in New York, where he performed accompanied by Ignacio Cervantes at the Steinway Hall. Later he played in Boston, at the Philharmonic Society, conducted by Germans George Matzka and Carl Bergman, and then he traveled to Cincinnati. Later he returned to Paris, where, in November, he resumed his artistic activities.

In 1877 he undertook a tour of Latin America, which took him to Panama, Venezuela, Peru, and Chile, where he acted in Valparaiso and in Santiago, the capital, where he wrote his famous play ¨ Zamacueca¨. He also traveled to Argentina, Uruguay and Brazil, where he remained for fifteen years and developed an intense social and artistic life.

Jose White died on March 12, 1918, at the age of eighty-two.

Among his most famous works are: La Bella Cubana , La Yumurina, The Carnival of Venice; Bolero de concierto; Fantasy on Martha; Zamacueca; Violinesque; Verses for the Virgin of La Merced, Miserere mei, and A mother's cry.

His incredible skill with the bow, the boldness of his stacattos, his pleasant and elegant sonority, his fair and never-affected expression have been the talk of criticism over the years, and he do not only highlighted as interpreter and composer, but also as a creator of Six brilliant studies, which even today are used for technical training of future violinists.

Even today, if we search in those fibers that touch the compositions of José White, we conclude that they are present in the most significant moments of our lives, cheering from time to time to those who listen to them. (By Lizandra Amat Consuegra)

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