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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, was a Cuban 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 between the years 1855 and 1871 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.[3] Afterwards he returned to Paris to spend the rest of his days. The famous 1737 "Swansong" Stradivari was his instrument.

His most famous work is La Bella Cubana, an habanera. White also wrote a virtuosic violin concerto, recorded several decades ago on the Columbia label.


  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. ^ Miguel Ficher, et al, Latin American Classical Composers, Scarecrow Press, 1996, p. 373.

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