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Chávez (y Ramírez), Carlos (Antonio de Padua)

Chávez (y Ramírez), Carlos (Antonio de Padua)

Chávez (y Ramírez), Carlos (Antonio de Padua), distinguished Mexican composer and conductor; b. Calzada de Tacube, near Mexico City, June 13, 1899; d. Mexico City, Aug. 2, 1978. He studied piano as a child with Pedro Luis Ogazón, then studied harmony with Juan B. Fuentes and Manuel Ponce. He began to compose very early in life. He wrote a Sym. at the age of 16, and made effective piano arrangements of popular Mexican songs and also wrote many piano pieces of his own. His first important work was a ballet on an Aztec subject, El fuego nuevo (1921), commissioned by the Secretariat of Public Education of Mexico. Historical and national Mexican subject matter remained the primary source of inspiration in many of his works, but he rarely resorted to literal quotations from authentic folk melodies; rather, he sublimated and distilled the melo-rhythmic Mexican elements, resulting in a sui generis style of composition. In 1922-23 he traveled in France, Austria, and Germany, and became acquainted with the modern developments in composition. The influence of this period on his evolution as a composer is reflected in the abstract titles of his piano works, such as Aspectos, Energía, and Unidad. Returning to Mexico, he organized and conducted a series of concerts of new music, giving first Mexican performances of works by Stravinsky, Schoenberg, Satie, Milhaud, and Várese. From 1926 to 1928 he lived in N.Y. In 1928 he organized the Orquesta Sinfónica de Mexico, of which he remained the principal conductor until 1949. Works of modern music occupied an important part in the program of this orch., including 82 first performances of works by Mexican composers, many of them commissioned by Chávez; Silvestre Revueltas was among those encouraged by Chávez to compose. During his tenure as conductor, Chávez engaged a number of famous foreign musicians as guest conductors, as well as numerous soloists. In 1948 the orch. was renamed the Orquesta Sinfónica Nacional; it remains a permanent institution. Chávez served as director of the Conservatorio Nacional de Música from 1928 to 1933 and again in 1934; he was general director of the Instituto Nacional de Bellas Artes from 1946 to 1952. Beginning in 1936 Chávez conducted a great number of concerts with major American orchs., and also conducted concerts in Europe and South America. Culturally, he maintained a close connection with progressive artists and authors of Mexico, particularly the painter Diego Rivera; his Sinfonía proletaria for Chorus and Orch. reflects his political commitment. In 1958-59 he was the Charles Eliot Norton Prof, of Poetry at Harvard Univ.; these lectures were publ., as Musical Thought (Cambridge, Mass., 1960). Chávez also pubi, a book of essays, Toward a New Music (N.Y., 1937).


DRAMATIC: Opera: Panfilo and Lauretta (1953; in Eng., N.Y., May 9, 1957; rev. Spanish version as El Amor propiciado, Mexico City, Oct. 28, 1959; later retitled The Visitors). ballet:El fuego nuevo (1921; Mexico City, Nov. 4, 1928); Los cuatro soles (1925; Mexico City, July 22, 1930); Caballos de Vapor (1926; 1st perf. in Eng. as HP, i.e., Horsepower, Philadelphia, March 31, 1932); Anttgona (Mexico City, Sept. 20, 1940; 1st perf. as incidental music for Sophocles’ Antigone, 1932); La hija de Cólquide (1943; 1st perf. as accompaniment to the Martha Graham Dance Company as Dark Meadow, N.Y., Jan. 23, 1946); Pirámide (1968). orch.:Sinfonía (1915); Cantos de Méjico for Mexican Orch. (1933); 7 syms.: No. 1, Sinfonía de Antígona, derived from his incidental music for Antigone (Mexico City, Dec. 15, 1933), No. 2, Sinfonía India (1935; broadcast, N.Y., Jan. 23, 1936), No. 3 (1951; Caracas, Dec. 11, 1954), No. 4, Sinfonía romántica (1952; Louisville, Feb. 11, 1953), No. 5 for Strings (Los Angeles, Dec. 1, 1953), No. 6 (1961; N.Y., May 7, 1964), and No. 7 (1960; unfinished); Obertura republicana (Mexico City, Oct. 18, 1935); Concerto for 4 Horns (Washington, D.C., April 11, 1937; rev. 1964); Piano Concerto (1938-40; N.Y Phil., Jan. 1, 1942); Cuatro nocturnos for Soprano, Contralto, and Orch. (1939); Toccata (1947); Violin Concerto (1948; Mexico City, Feb. 29, 1952); Soli No. 3 for Bassoon, Trumpet, Viola, Timpani, and Orch. (Baden-Baden, Nov. 24, 1965); Resonancias (Mexico City, Sept. 18, 1964); Elatio (Mexico City, July 15, 1967); Discovery (Aptos, Calif., Aug. 24, 1969); Clio, symphonic ode (Houston, March 23, 1970); Initium (1972; Akron, Ohio, Oct. 9, 1973); Mañanas Mexicanas (1974; orig. for Piano, 1967); Sonante for Strings (1974); Trombone Concerto (1975-76; Washington, D.C., May 9, 1978). chamber: Piano and String Sextet (1919); 3 string quartets (1921, 1932, 1944); 3 Pieces for Guitar (1923); Violin Sonatina (1924); Cello Sonatina (1924); Energía for 9 Instruments (1925; Paris, June 11, 1931); Sonata for 4 Horns (1929); 3 of 4 pieces under the generic title Soli (No. 1 for Oboe, Clarinet, Trumpet, and Bassoon, 1933; No. 2 for Wind Quintet, 1961; No. 4 for Brass Trio, 1966); 3 Espirales for Violin and Piano (1934); Xochipilli Macuilxochitl for 4 Wind Instruments and 6 Percussionists (N.Y., May 16, 1940); Toccata for 6 Percussionists (1942; Mexico City, Oct. 31, 1947); 2 of 3 instrumental pieces, under the generic title Invention (No. 2 for String Trio, 1965; No. 3 for Harp, 1967), introducing an inductive method of thematic illation in which each musical phrase is the logical consequent of the one immediately preceding it; Upingos for Oboe (1957); Fuga HAG,C for Violin, Viola, Cello, and Double Bass (1964); Tambuco for 6 Percussionists (1964); Variations for Violin and Piano (1969). keyboard: piano: 6 sonatas (Sonata fantasia, 1917; 1919; 1928; 1941; 1960; 1961); Berceuse (1918); 7 Madrigals (1921–22); Polígonos (1923); Aspectos I and II (1923); Sonatina (1924); Blues (1928); Fox (1928); Paisaje (1930); Unidad (1930); 10 Preludes (1937); Fugas (1942); 4 Études (1949); Left Hand Inversions of 5 Chopin Études (1950); Invention No. 1 (1958); Estudio a Rubinstein, in minor seconds (1974); 5 caprichos (1975–76). vocal: c h o r a 1 :Tierra mojada for Chorus, Oboe, and English Horn (Mexico City, Sept. 6, 1932); El Sol for Chorus and Orch. (Mexico City, July 17, 1934); Sinfonía proletaria (Llamadas) for Chorus and Orch. (Mexico City, Sept. 29, 1934); La paloma azul for Chorus and Chamber Orch. (1940); Prometheus Bound, cantata (1956; Aptos, Calif., Aug. 27, 1972). voice and orch.:Cuatro nocturnos for Soprano, Contralto, and Orch. (1939). voice and piano: 3 exágonos (1923); Inutil epigrama (1923); Otros 3 exágonos (1924); 3 poemas (1938); La casada infiel (1941).


R. Morillo, G G, vida y obra (Buenos Aires, 1960); R. Halffter, compiler, G C, Catalogo completo de sus obras (Mexico City, 1971); R. Parker, G C, Mexico’s Modern-Orpheus (Boston, 1983); G. Carmona, éd., Epistolario selecto de C. C. (Mexico City, 1989); J. Alcaraz, G G: Un constante renacer (Mexico City, 1996); R. Parker, C. G: A Guide to Research (N.Y., 1998).

—Nicolas Slonimsky/Laura Kuhn/Dennis McIntire

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