Dissertations, Theses, and Capstone Projects

José White Laffita (1835–1918): A Biography and a Study of His Six Études, Op. 13

Date of Degree


Document Type


Degree Name





Allan W. Atlas

Subject Categories

African American Studies | Music | Theatre and Performance Studies


Cité de la Musique, Stradivarius, Société Schumann, Société des Concerts du Conservatoire, Société White-Delahaye, Cuba, Matanzas, Slavery, 19th century Cuba, Race, Racism, Spanish West Indies, Antillas españolas, Spanish colonies in the Caribbean, Cuban musicians, Rafael Diaz Albertini, Brindis de Salas, Emilio Agramonte, Amalia Simoni, Delphin Alard, Pierre Marsick, Paris Conservatoire, Jean Pierre Maurin, Joseph White, José White, George Enescu, Henri Vieuxtemps, Henryk Wieniawski, French School of Violin, Jacques Thibaud, Louis Moreau Gottschalk, Ignacio Cervantes, Violin pedagogy, Violin technique


This dissertation deals with the life and career of the violinist, composer, and pedagogue José Silvestre de los Dolores White Laffita (1835-1918), known (in more familiar terms) as Joseph White, a Cuban-born (in Matanzas) musician of African and French heritage, who, after receiving his early musical education in Cuba, went to France in 1855 to study at the Paris Conservatoire with Jean-Delphin Alard (1815-1888). There White won the Premier Prix in 1856, and followed it with numerous successes that gained him a place among the best-regarded violinists of his generation--as well as one of the leading exponents of the French School of violin playing--both in Europe and the Americas. White's playing was held in high regard by such musical giants as Rossini and Gounod, as it was also by several emperors and other members of ruling houses. He also distinguished himself as a composer of music for the violin, with his catalogue including virtuoso showpieces, a violin concerto, and two important books of études. As a teacher White had an enormous following wherever he resided; and among his best-known pupils were Jacques Thibaud (1880-1953), and the Romanian violinist-pianist-composer George Enescu (1881-1955).

The dissertation is organized in two parts. Part 1 consists of what is now the single most comprehensive biography of White. The four chapters cover his early years in Cuba, his student days and reputation-building period in Paris, his tours of both North and South America, his ten-year residency in Brazil, and his final years back in Paris.

Part 2 deals with one of White's two pedagogical works: the Six Études, op. 13 (1869), which, in 1868 (thus prior to publication), became part of the official curriculum of the Paris Conservatoire. The two chapters look first at the history and background of the publication, and then analyze its contents from a pedagogical point of view.

The dissertation includes illustrations, tables, numerous excerpts from the contemporary press, music examples, facsimiles of letters and manuscript music by White, and a bibliography.


This work was removed from public view on Jan. 19, 2024 in accordance with the CUNY Academic Works Collection Policies.

The dissertation may be accessed onsite at the Mina Rees Library and in ProQuest. For more information, contact the library.

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