Friday, February 19, 2010

Black History Month: Classical Composers

Not all music by black musicians is in the popular vein. The earliest famous Classical composer was the eighteenth-century Afro-French composer Joseph Boulogne, Chevalier de Saint-Georges, who conducted the premiere of Haydn's "Paris" Symphonies. He is sometimes referred to as the "Black Mozart" ("Le Mozart Noir").

The most famous nineteenth-century black composer was the Afro-English composer Samuel Coleridge-Taylor, called the "African Mahler." His best-known composition is Hiawatha.

The Harlem Renaissance inspired some composers to incorporate African-American themes into their compositions. The most famous example is William Grant Still's Afro-American Symphony.

There are many more Classical musicians of African descent, and the best place to read up on them is in the International Dictionary of Black Composers, found in the Music Collection Reference area (ML 105 .I5 1999).

The Music Collection's 17,000+ CDs include examples from the wide diversity of black musical styles, both Classical and popular. For books, recordings and sheet music, search African-Americans and Music in CardCat.

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