Best black classical composers of all time – Marseille News

The history of Western music tells a fascinating story of musical genius, virtuosity and unprecedented artistic expression. Nonetheless, it’s a story that only stars a select few, and the canon is currently being criticized for that very reason. So why not extend it? Why not include the countless artists, composers and musicians who have been marginalized for their race or gender, those intrinsic and hidden figures that history has left behind? Why not make room in our concert programs and CD collections for voices that have not been heard, scores that remain unpublished, and music that has not been played? There is no doubt that our musical lives will be even richer. Scroll down for our pick of the 10 best black classical composers of all time.

Listen to Florence Price’s Symphonies Nos 1 and 3, performed by The Philadelphia Orchestra under the direction of Yannick Nézet-Séguin, on Apple Music and Spotify and scroll down to discover our selection of the best black classical composers.

Best black classical composers of all time

Joseph Bologne, knight of Saint-Georges (1745 – 1799)

Living in pre-revolutionary France, Joseph Bologne was a gentleman of the king’s chamber, in the service of King Louis XV (hence his noble title, “Le Chevalier de Saint-Georges”). Bologna, one of the best black classical composers, first made a name for himself as a violin virtuoso by launching his own works, among which an ensemble of fierce and complex violin concertos, symphonies and concertantes. . His concerts were attended by Queen Marie-Antoinette, and in 1775 he was appointed director of the Paris Opera. Bologna went on to write six of its own operas, most notably L’Amant Anonyme (L’Amant anonymous) which premiered in 1780.

George Bridgetower (1778 – 1860)

George Bridgetower was a child prodigy who became an international violin sensation at a young age. In 1803 Bridgetower played for Ludwig van Beethoven in Vienna and was so impressed that he composed his “Kreutzer” Sonata, notoriously one of the most complex and demanding sonatas in the repertoire, for the young violinist and dedicated the work to him. Unfortunately, following an argument between Beethoven and Bridgewater, his name was erased from the score and with it its place in the history books. Bridgetower was also a full-fledged composer and studied with Joseph Haydn. Unfortunately, many of his works have been lost, but a few treasures remain, such as his Diatonica Armonica, for piano and Henry: A Ballad for Medium Voice and Piano.

François Johnson (1792 – 1844)

Intrinsic to the development of American music, Francis Johnson, one of the best black classical composers, is another figure whose invaluable work is still to be discovered today. He is often considered the ancestor of jazz and ragtime. Outstanding violinist and bugle player, Johnson led a famous military band with which he toured Europe and even performed for Queen Victoria. Johnson was the first black American composer to publish his many compositions in sheet music. During his prolific career, he has composed over 300 musical works spanning the gamut, including ballets, operas, marches, salon music and dances.

Samuel Coleridge-Taylor (1875 – 1912)

A prominent composer, conductor, poet and political activist, Coleridge-Taylor attended the Royal College of Music when he was just 15 years old. Under the direction of Charles Stanford, he developed a lively and romantic style of composition. Highlights of his work include the magnificent Ballad in A minor for orchestra, the moving Symphonic Variations on an African Air, the epic trilogy of cantatas The Song of Hiawatha and Deep River, which has recently been beautifully reinvented by the brilliant cellist Sheku Kanneh. – Mason.

Florence Price (1887 – 1953)

In 1933, the Chicago Symphony Orchestra premiered Florence Price’s Symphony No. 1 in E minor; it was the first time that a large orchestra performed a symphony by an African-American composer. Despite Price’s extensive catalog, spanning everything from large-scale choral works to sonatas, many of his valuable works are still being discovered and only a few have been recorded. Of these, the Piano Sonata in E minor is a highlight, demonstrating the moving lyricism and flair of Price’s composition.

William Grant Still (1895 – 1978)

William Grant Still’s music is a brilliant combination of experimentalism, blues and jazz, which he perfected under the direction of avant-garde composer Edgard Varèse. Like Florence Price, Still was the first African-American composer to have a symphony performed by a professional orchestra in America (the spectacular Symphony No. 1, subtitled “African-American”) and to have an opera produced by the New York City Opera House. Over the course of his life, Still built up an impressive catalog of over 200 works in almost every genre. In 1999, he was inducted into the Mississippi Musicians Hall of Fame.

George Walker (1922 – 2018)

One of the greatest American composers of all time, the music of George Walker is a synthesis of musical styles and creative influences. His characteristic style of composition is a fusion of jazz, blues, classical and popular musical elements. In some works, he is inspired by church music (Music for brass, sacred and secular); in others he explored serialism and bitonality, such as the solo piano composition of 1960 Spatials. Walker, one of the greatest black classical composers of all time, has won numerous scholarships and awards throughout his career, including becoming the first African American to win the Pulitzer Prize for Music for Lilacs, a fascinating piece for voice and orchestra.

Julia Perry (1924 – 1979)

Julia Perry studied composition with Luigi Dallapiccola, Nadia Boulanger, and later at the prestigious Julliard School of Music. His early neo-classical approach to composition was heavily influenced by African-American music, while his later works feature more experimental techniques. Perry was a prolific composer, with 12 symphonies, 3 operas, concertos and a myriad of other small pieces in her work. Even after a stroke in 1970, Perry continued to compose after learning to write with his left hand. From the panton piece Homunuculus, for 10 percussionists, to his superb vocal works such as Song for Our Savior and Stabat Mater, Perry’s music is as fascinating as it is brilliant.

Julius Eastman (1940 – 1990)

Composer, singer, dancer, visionary and innovator, Julius Eastman was an idiosyncratic minimalist composer. He was himself without apologizing, declaring in a 1976 interview: “What I’m trying to achieve is to be what I am to the maximum… Black to the maximum, musician to the maximum, homosexual to the maximum. . This raw and shameless emotion shines through in his music. Eastman wrote music to challenge, and perhaps even bait, his audiences. The provocative titles of his works tend to border on the scandalous, and the music itself is as eclectic as it is erratic. Take, for example, Femenine from 1974: just four pages of music take, on average, about 70 minutes to play. Inflammatory? May be. Opinion which divides? Absoutely. But finally ? Astonishing. Eastman was a musician ahead of his time. Maybe the audience weren’t ready then, but we’re ready for them now.

Wynton Marsalis (1961 -)

Wynton Marsalis is a composer, jazz legend and pioneer of modern classical music. He has not only been described as one of the greatest trumpeters of all time, but he has also cultivated a unique, fresh and vibrant style of composition, infusing classical music with the rhythms and language of jazz. Marsalis has recorded over 100 albums, received 9 Grammy Awards, was named NEA Jazz Master, received the Louis Armstrong Memorial Medal, and was the first jazz composer to win the Pulitzer Prize for Music for his breathtaking oratorio Blood on the Fields. . In 2020 Nicola Benedetti won a Grammy Award for Best Classical Instrumental Solo for her recording of Marsalis Violin Concerto and Violin Dance Suite, which he composed especially for the world-class violinist.

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Best black classical composers of all time – Marseille News

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