Four African Dances for Violin & Piano, Op.58
Samuel Coleridge-Taylor (1875-1912) was born in London, the product of a mixed race marriage, his father, a doctor, being an African from Sierra Leone and his mother a white Englishwoman. His father returned to Africa when he was a small boy and he was brought up by his mother in Croydon. His musical talent showed itself early and he was admitted to study the violin at the Royal College of Music where he eventually concentrated on composition when his gifts were ascertained. His teacher was the renowned composer, Sir Charles Villiers Stanford. He and his compositions gained considerable fame during his lifetime. His oratorio Hiawatha's Wedding Feast for a time became as popular as Handel's Messiah and Mendelssohn's Elijah. He made several visits to the United States because of his interest in American Negro cultural life. His fame was such that on one visit he was invited to the White House by Theodore Roosevelt.
The Four African Dances were composed in 1904 for his friend the violinist John Saunders, with whom he often performed. The Dances were clearly intended as a vehicle for the violin and exploit both its lyrical and virtuosic qualities. Surprisingly, the music does not sound at all African but rather is written in the traditional tonal and melodic language of the late Romantic era. However, Coleridge-Taylor did note, without giving any specifics, in the manuscript that the second dance was based on a traditional African folk melody.
These four lovely and exciting works have been out of print for many years. They can be used separately either as encores or short recital works or played together they can take the place of a sonata on a recital program. They should be attractive to both professionals and amateurs alike.