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George Frederick Pinto (1785–1806)

George Frederick Pinto was an English composer and violinist who had a high reputation in the early years of the 19th century. He was born in London in 1785. Nothing is known of his father except that his name was Sanders; his mother (whose maiden name he adopted) was a member of a well-established family of Italian musicians resident in London. He died in 1806 at the age of 20. His teacher and protector, Johann Salomon, had called him ‘the English Mozart’. He received similar tributes from Samuel Wesley, and later from Ayrton and J. W. Davison. Sterndale Bennett edited one of his sonatas and performed it several times in the 1840s. Then, for a hundred years, his music became quite unknown to scholars and public alike.

Pinto was by far the most remarkable English composer of his generation. His style has much in common with that of Jan Dussek, who was living in London during Pinto’s formative years. It also bears some resemblance to the three early sonatas of his close friend and contemporary, John Field, but none whatever to the later style of Field’s Nocturnes. Pinto possessed a strength of purpose not found in Field, an emotional intensity far exceeding Samuel Wesley’s, and melodic and harmonic resources that sometimes place him among the masters of the classical period. His early death is one of those tragedies of musical history whose consequences cannot be measured.

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