On Tuesday, Feb. 28, the Austin Chamber Music Center, with sponsorship from the United Teacher Associates Insurance Company, offers its fourth annual concert spotlighting works by composers of African descent. Young Eight violinists Quinton Morris and John Littlejohn are featured performers, and Morris will play two of his own works, The Baroque Poeme for solo violin and The One I Love for solo violin. Here are brief profiles of three of the other diverse artists whose compositions will be heard this year in Diverse Diversions.
George Walker (1922- ): Lyric for Strings
The first person of color to receive a doctorate in music from the Eastman School of Music, Walker was also the first black composer to receive a Pulitzer Prize in music (awarded for his 1996 work Lilacs for Voice and Orchestra). Lyric for Strings was his first major composition, a 1946 piece dedicated to his deceased grandmother, Malvina King.
Le Chevalier de Saint-Georges (1745-1799): Symphonie Concertante in G major for Two Violins
Born Joseph Boulogne, this son of a French plantation owner and an African slave became a champion swordsman, dancer, swimmer, rider, and, in 1792, commander of a military regiment of French Caribbeans and former American slaves. He was also a virtuoso on the violin, and his compositions on the instrument are said to have influenced Mozart.
Joseph White (1835-1918): La Jota Aragonesa, op. 5
Born to a French father and an Afro-Cuban mother, White left his native Cuba to study at the Paris Conservatoire, then went on to a great success touring Europe and Latin America, developing a reputation as one of the premier violinists of his time. As a composer, he has been compared with Mendelssohn, Schumann, and Wieniawski.