Art Music

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Art Music


Art music—broadly defined as music, whether sacred or secular, of serious artistic intent, written by trained composers—arrived in the Americas with the first missionaries, who brought with them the church music of the European Renaissance. The Spanish and Portuguese crowns gave the Catholic Church a preeminent role in introducing European culture into the New World. As early as the second half of the sixteenth century missionaries were instructing the Indians in the fundamentals of music. Although the first missionaries were Franciscans, Dominicans, and Augustinians, it was the Jesuits who dominated in introducing European art and music into the New World.

About 1750, when Latin America was divided into viceroyalties, the political division of the Spanish colonies was: (1) the Viceroyalty of New Spain, from Florida and the western bank of the Mississippi River to present-day Costa Rica and the isles of the Caribbean; (2) the Viceroyalty of New Granada, embracing the lands of present-day Venezuela, Colombia, Panama, and Ecuador; (3) the Viceroyalty of Peru, which included the audiencias of Lima, Cuzco, and Chile; and (4) the Viceroyalty of the Río De La Plata, formed by present-day Argentina, Uruguay, Paraguay, and part of Bolivia. Portugal created the Viceroyalty of Brazil and divided it into capitanías generales. With the building of the first cathedrals in the capitals of the viceroyalties, music rose to a new level of importance. From the simple religious chants of the missions to the heights of the polyphonic mass, and with the introduction of the organ and the proliferation of choruses in the churches, sacred art music flourished in the Americas. The chapelmasters and organists of the cathedrals became the leaders of cultural activity.

The theater was the second outlet for musical development in Latin America. The regal palaces of the viceroys were the first stages for musical plays, beginning in the early seventeenth century. The high point was the premiere of the first opera produced in America: La púrpura de la rosa by Tomás de Torrejón y Velasco, at the viceroyal palace in Lima in 1701. Interest in music was not limited to the royal and the prominent. The populations of the cities were avid for musical entertainment, and thus started, in the mid-eighteenth century, the building of the first public theaters. These were primitive, rustic constructions, with an unfurnished orchestra—the public brought their own chairs—and a few boxes with armchairs and some embellishment, reserved for the authorities. There were performances of tonadillas escénicas and zarzuelas, both Spanish genres that alternate singing with musical interludes and spoken parts.

Around this time instrumental and vocal music began to be heard in the salons of the colonial mansions, and musical soirées in the European romantic tradition, with songs accompanied by piano, harp, guitar, or violin, became widely popular. These informal ensembles were the roots of chamber music and of the first primitive orchestras in the New World.

At the beginning of the nineteenth century, and coincidental to the emergence of ideas of freedom and independence, Italian opera came to America. Initially overtures and some arias and choruses were performed; later there were complete performances of opera. By 1830 virtually every country in America had heard at least one complete work by Rossini. With the arrival of opera, the old theaters were replaced by elaborately decorated opera houses to rival those of Europe. And a century and a half later, many still endure, a tribute to the permanence of opera in the cultural life of America.

Most of the musicians who arrived as orchestra members of the Italian opera companies took up residence in America and became the teachers of a new generation of national composers. As a result, the works of the first American composers were entirely European in technique and style. The second generation studied for the most part in conservatories in Europe. Upon their return to their native countries, many found inspiration for their compositions in the tunes, rhythms, and themes of the native American populations and in the popular music of their ancestors, thereby transforming folk materials into the elements of art music. As a result, a new musical trend was born in America by the beginning of the twentieth century: nationalism. Nevertheless, with the frequent interchange of composers and musicians between Europe and America, the new European styles were rapidly assimilated by American composers. After impressionism, the most dramatic change in musical style came during the 1950s with the arrival of new technologies, aesthetics, and musical countercurrents: serialism, aleatorism, computerized music, and a variety of electronic techniques.

The Inter-American Music Festivals, created by the Colombian conductor Guillermo Espinosa, chief of the Music Division of the Organization of American States, and held in Washington, D.C., from 1958 to 1974, discovered and promoted the works of many of today's prominent composers.



During the colonial period and after the early period of the Franciscan missions, the development of music in Mexico took place at three cathedrals: Mexico City, Puebla, and Morelia. Starting with the production of villancicos, psalms, coplas, and Nativity and Passion plays in the Spanish tradition, religious music reached its most elaborate forms in the polyphonic masses, Te deums, requiems, and Magnificats of the mid-sixteenth century. Organists and chapelmasters were the composers of that period: Francisco López Capillas (ca. 1615–1673), Antonio de Salazar (ca. 1650–1715), Manuel de Zumaya (ca. 1678–1756), and Juan Gutiérrez De Padilla (ca. 1590–1664). Built around 1500, Mexico City's old Casa de Comedias was replaced in 1670 by the Teatro Coliseo, which presented Spanish plays, tonadillas, and zarzuelas for half a century until it burned down on 16 January 1722. The Teatro Coliseo Nuevo opened in 1735 and continued the tradition of presenting Spanish comedies, dramas, sainetes, songs, dances, and fines de fiesta. At the beginning of the nineteenth century, this repertoire became mixed with and quickly replaced by operatic arias of Rossini, Bellini, and Donizetti plus some of the most well-known Rossini overtures. But the real operatic vogue began in 1827, when the legendary Manuel García and his family sang Il barbiere di Siviglia. In Mexico City, the Teatro Principal became the leading house for opera performances around 1831. In the 1850s the Gran Teatro de Santa Anna shared the yearly opera seasons with the Principal, and, since then, opera and zarzuela have been presented on all Mexican stages.

With the founding in 1866 of a private musical conservatory that eventually became, in 1877, the Conservatorio Nacional de Música, instrumental music came to prominence. The better-known composers during the nineteenth century were Cenobio Paniagua, Melesio Morales, Luis Baca, and Aniceto Ortega, whose opera Guatimotzin (1871), using Italian technique, incorporated Indian tunes. Piano salon-music was in vogue at the beginning of the twentieth century; Juventino Rosas (1868–1894) became famous for his universally popular waltz Sobre las olas. Manuel Ponce (1882–1948) was the leader of the nationalist style, which continued with Silvestre Revueltas (1899–1940). A unique case is that of composer and theoretician Julián Carrillo (1875–1965), who developed a microtonal system and the "Sonido 13." Carlos Chávez (1899–1978), a dominant authority until the 1950s, was also a celebrated conductor and the founder of the Orquesta Sinfónica de México (1928). The contemporary and avant-garde generations are represented by Daniel Ayala-Pérez (1908–1975), José Moncayo (1912–1958), Blás Galindo (1910–1993), Luis Sandi (b. 1905), Manuel Enríquez (1926–1994), Héctor Quintanar (b. 1936), Mario Kuri-Aldana (b. 1931), and Eduardo Mata (1942–1995).


Sacred music began at the Santiago de Cuba cathedral about 1544 with organist Miguel Velázquez, and later was continued by chapel-master Domingo de Flores (b. 1682). However, the first composer of importance was Esteban Salas y Castro (1725–1803), who left a vast production of masses, motets, psalms, and villancicos. The Havana parish church became a cathedral in 1788, and achieved its musical climax around 1850. Opera and symphonic and piano music dominated in the nineteenth century. The first playhouse, Teatro Coliseo, opened in 1776 and was remodeled in 1803 as Teatro Principal. From 1810 on, after brilliant seasons of tonadillas and zarzuelas, opera became the public favorite, and an active national opera company was established. Moreover, with the opening of Teatro de Tacón on 28 February 1838, opera seasons became the height of fashion.

The first Havana conservatory (1885) was replaced by the Conservatorio Municipal Amadeo Roldán (1935), and the Orquesta Sinfónica Nacional was founded in 1960. Antonio Raffellín (1796–1882) and Nicolás Ruiz Espadero (1832–1890) were the two major composers of the classical and romantic generations. Cuba's leading nationalist composer Ignacio Cervantes (1847–1905) was followed by Eduardo Sánchez de Fuentes (1874–1944), Amadeo Roldán (1900–1939), and Alejandro García Caturla (1906–1940). José Ardévol (1911–1981), the prominent composer of the 1930s, founded the Grupo Renovación. The major twentieth-century composers, Harold Gramatges (b. 1918), Julián Orbón (1925–1991), and Aurelio de la Vega (b. 1925), were followed by the younger generation, represented by Juan Blanco (b. 1920) and Leo Brouwer (b. 1939).

Puerto Rico

Sacred music was developed after the Conquest. The first theater on the island, San Juan's Teatro Municipal (renamed Teatro Tapia in 1937), opened in 1832. Soon thereafter the first Sociedad Filarmónica was created. Among the earlier composers, Felipe Gutiérrez y Espinosa (1825–1899) was known for his opera Guarionex, zarzuelas, and religious music. Juan Morel Campos (1857–1896) was considered one of the most significant musicians of his time for his prolificness, with about five hundred works, and for including in his compositions the danza puertorriqueña. The leader of nationalism, Héctor Campos-Parsi (b. 1922), who had studied with Copland, Messiaen, and Nadia Boulanger in Paris, changed to neoclassicism and later to avant-garde techniques. He won France's Maurice Ravel Prize (1953).

Dominican Republic

The composition and performance of Spanish sacred and secular music was encouraged during the colonial period. Later Juan Francisco García (b. 1892), professor, composer and musicologist, incorporated the Dominican folk song into his symphonies and piano works. Manuel Simó (b. 1916), composer and conductor, wrote numerous symphonic works. Margarita Luna (b. 1921), an organist and composer, trained at the Juilliard School of Music in New York City and taught musical analysis and the history of music at the National Conservatory of Santo Domingo.


Sacred music in Venezuela developed from the last part of the eighteenth century to the early twentieth. A prominent group of colonial composers included José Francisco Velázquez, José Antonio Caro de Boesi, Juan José Land-aeta, Pedro Nolasco Colón, and José Cayetano Carreño, all of whom were active at the beginning of 1800. José Ángel Lamas (1775–1814), with laudable works, was the most significant of them all. While the first opera season opened in Caracas in 1808, the operatic tradition reached its first period of prominence with the building of the Teatro Caracas (1854) and later with the fifteen-hundred-seat Teatro Municipal (1881). The musicians of that period were pianist Felipe Larrazábal (1816–1873); José Ángel Montero (1839–1881), the Caracas cathedral chapelmaster and composer of Virginia, the first Venezuelan opera; and Federico Villena (1835–ca. 1900), who wrote sacred and orchestral works as well as several zarzuelas. Two musicians, the pianist Teresa Carreño (1853–1917) and the composer Reynaldo Hahn (1875–1947), achieved international fame.

In 1868 the first conservatory was founded, followed by the Academy of Music of the Instituto de Bellas Artes in 1877. From the 1920s to the 1960s Vicente Emilio Sojo (1887–1974), composer, teacher, and musicologist, led the musical life of Venezuela. In addition to his important works, he was founder and director of both the Orquesta Sinfónica Venezolana (1930) and the Orfeón Lamas, director of the Escuela Superior de Música José Ángel Lamas (1936), and the teacher of three generations of major Venezuelan composers. One of Sojo's pupils was Juan Bautista Plaza (1898–1965), renowned nationalist composer and musicologist, who published important essays on Venezuelan colonial music. Other nationalist composers were Carlos Figueredo (b. 1910), Evencio Castellanos (b. 1915), Antonio Estévez (b. 1916), Inocente Carreño (b. 1919), and Gonzalo Castellanos (b. 1926). The creation of the Conservatorio Nacional de Música (1972) by the Instituto Nacional de Cultura y Bellas Artes (INCIBA) and the establishment of the Caracas Music Festival gave great impetus to Venezuelan music. Starting in the 1960s, a group of composers experimented with avant-garde techniques, among them Rhazes Hernández-López (b. 1918), José Luis Muñoz (b. 1928), Alexis Rago (b. 1930), and the Greek Yannis Ioannidis, who settled in Caracas in 1969.


Beginning in 1573, Hernando Franco (1532–1585), a well-trained Spanish musician, directed the musical life of the Guatemala cathedral as chapelmaster, becoming the leading composer of the southern area of the Viceroyalty of New Spain in the sixteenth century. The first Central American composers incorporated indigenous themes, rhythms, and tunes into their works, which also drew on European romantic and impressionist techniques. The first Guatemalan composer to combine these stylistic elements was the pianist Luis Felipe Arias (1870–1908), who wrote principally piano works. Jesús Castillo (1877–1946), a forerunner of his generation, wrote symphonic music and operas, and José Castañeda (1898–1983) was the first to experiment with polytonality, microtonality, and other avant-garde trends. Jorge Sarmientos (b. 1933), who studied at the Di Tella Institute in Buenos Aires, used serial techniques and is today a major composer.

The first military band in Honduras, organized in 1876, became the Banda de los Supremos Poderes. Manuel de Adalid y Gamero (1872–?) composed the Suite tropical and also wrote several essays around 1940 about the music of his country. In El Salvador, Gilberto Orellana (b. 1942) has experimented with and composed in the serial technique.

Presently the major composer of his country, San Salvador's Germán Cáceres (b. 1954) is also an orchestra conductor and oboist. He earned undergraduate and graduate degrees at New York's Juilliard School of Music (1973–1978) and a doctorate in composition (1989) at the University of Cincinnati. His works have been performed in the United States, France, Holland, Switzerland, Germany, Austria, and Latin America, where he also performed and conducted. He has been invited to participate in numerous forums and contemporary music festivals and has been awarded several international prizes, among them Germany's International Gertrud Ramdohr Prize (1986). Currently he is the music director of the Sinfónica Nacional in San Salvador. In 1991, he won a fellowship from the Rockefeller Foundation.

Luis A. Delgadillo (1887–1964), who studied at the Milan Conservatory, is the major Nicaraguan composer of the twentieth century. He was director of the Escuela Nacional de Música in Managua, taught in Mexico and Panama, was the conductor of the Orquesta Nacional, and composed more than four hundred works in the nationalist style.

The early Costa Rican composers included Manuel María Gutiérrez (1829–1887), creator of the national anthem, the bandleader Rafael Chávez Tórrez (1839–1907), and Pedro Calderón Navarro (1864–1909), who composed principally religious music. Julio Fonseca (1885–1950), trained in Milan and Brussels, was the major Costa Rican composer of the first half of the twentieth century. In 1964, Bernal Flores (b. 1937), who received his musical education at the Eastman School of Music in Rochester, New York, was appointed professor of music at the University of Costa Rica. Benjamín Gutiérrez (b. 1937), who attended the New England Conservatory in Boston and the Di Tella Institute in Buenos Aires, is a pianist and orchestra conductor. Together the two have trained numerous young Costa Rican composers.

Roque Cordero (b. 1917), a Panamanian, is the most prominent composer of Central America. He studied composition with Krenek and conducting with Chapple, Barzin, and Mitropoulos. In 1964 he founded and directed the Orquesta Nacional de Panamá. An adherent of nationalism in his early works, he turned, in 1946, to serialism. From 1972 to 1987 he was professor of composition at Illinois State University.



Cartagena de Indias, founded in 1533, and Bogotá, founded five years later, were the two places where sacred music developed during the colonial period in the then Viceroyalty of New Granada. Juan Pérez Materano (d. 1561) was the first musician to conduct and perform sacred music in Cartagena. But during the rest of the colonial age the musical center of the region was the Bogotá cathedral, where Gutierre Fernández Hidalgo (1553–1620), the eminent sixteenth-century composer, was appointed chapelmaster in 1584. José de Cascante and Juan de Herrera continued the musical tradition after Fernández left for Quito and Sucre. The composer Roberto Pineda-Duque (1910–1977) devoted much of his life to writing and performing sacred music.

During the nineteenth century, music developed around opera and the European symphonic style. The first Sociedad Filarmónica was founded in 1847. Henry Price (1819–1863), an Englishman, settled in Colombia and began teaching music. His son Jorge Price (1853–1953) founded the Academia Nacional de Música in 1882. José María Ponce de León (1846–1882), composer of the first Colombian operas, Ester (1874) and Florinda (1880), and also of symphonic works, was a pioneer of nationalism in music. In 1909 the Academia Nacional became the Conservatorio Nacional and ever since brilliant composers have been associated with the institution, especially Guillermo Uribe Holguín (1880–1971), who was its director for twenty-five years, considered the most significant composer of his era. Andrés Martínez Montoya (1869–1933) and Santos Cifuentes (1870–1932) belonged to the same generation. Guillermo Espinosa (1905–1990), a conductor trained in Europe, founded the Orquesta Sinfónica Nacional in 1936 and served as its first director. Later, while chief of the OAS Music Division in Washington, D.C., he created the Inter-American Music Festivals (1958–1974). Antonio María Valencia (1902–1952), a pianist trained in Paris, wrote songs and chamber music based on Colombian themes but with an impressionist influence. Two other internationally known Colombian composers are Luis Antonio Escobar (1925–1993) and Blás Emilio Atehortúa (b. 1933).


As early as 1550 Flemish monks of the Franciscan order founded the Colegio de San Andrés in Quito to instruct the sons of Indian chiefs in European polyphony and Gregorian chant. As a consequence, Diego Lobato (ca. 1538–ca. 1610), a mestizo and one of the sons of the Inca Atahualpa, became chapelmaster of the Quito cathedral in 1574. In 1588, Fernández Hidalgo arrived in Quito and served briefly as chapelmaster. Presumably, during the remainder of the colonial era, the performance of sacred music was divided between Quito and Guayaquil.

Although the Conservatorio Nacional de Música had been founded in 1870, it wasn't until 1903, when the Italian Domenico Brescia came to Quito to direct the conservatory, that the serious study of music began in Ecuador. A composer himself, he started the nationalist style along with his pupil Segundo Luis Moreno (1882–1972), who was also an ethnomusicologist and a folklorist. Pedro Pablo Traversari (1874–1956) continued in the same trend with a more romantic language. The leading composer of that period, however, was Luis H. Salgado (1903–1977), who composed two operas and several major symphonic works based on Indian legends. The Ecuadorian Mesías Maiguashca (b. 1938) studied at the Quito Conservatory and at the Eastman School of Music. He was a pupil of Messiaen and Ginastera at the Di Tella Institute in Buenos Aires and is internationally known for his experiments in avant-garde techniques. Since 1990 he has been the director of the Studio for Electronic Music in Freiburg's Musikhochschule.


On a par with Mexico, Peru was the other politically important entity in the Spanish colonies of the New World. Consequently, from the 1500s to the end of the colonial period, Lima and Cuzco became important centers of musical development. The chapelmasters and organists of the cathedrals of both cities were responsible for the diffusion of the polyphonic style of the High Renaissance. Gutierre Fernández Hidalgo (1553–1620)—the most influential sixteenth-century composer in Latin America—was the dominant figure in sacred music in Cuzco until a native American, José de Orejón y Aparicio (1706–1765), took control of the direction of Peruvian music. The viceroyal palace became famous for staging the first operas, concerts, and plays, including Tomás de Torrejón y Velasco's (1644–1728) La púrpura de la rosa, the first opera produced in America, in 1701. During the late 1700s Roque Ceruti (ca. 1683–1760) was the leading composer of both sacred and secular music. Italian opera owed a great deal to the Italian Carlo Enrico Pasta (1855–1898) and his opera Atahualpa (1877), which sparked an interest in that genre among the native Peruvians, particularly following the opening of Lima's Nuevo Teatro Principal (1889) and the Teatro Municipal (1904). The works of Daniel Alomía Robles (1871–1942), based on Indian melodies, spawned a nationalist movement that was continued by other composers, such as Teodoro Valcárcel (1902–1942).

Peruvian art music flourished in the late 1920s when two important European composers and musicologists, Andrés Sas (1900–1967) and Rudolf Holzmann (1910–1992), took up residence in Peru. They developed a solid school of composition based on European pedagogy that produced a generation of highly trained composers. A new breed of musicians, trained in the United States and Europe, is committed to experimenting with advanced techniques in the search for a new musical language. They are Enrique Iturriaga (b. 1918), Enrique Pinilla (b. 1927, d. 1989), César Bolaños (b. 1931), Edgar Valcárcel (b. 1932), and the Chilean born Celso Garrido-Lecca (b. 1926).


Called Audiencia de Charcas, or Alto Perú, during the viceroyalty, Bolivia depended on Lima for its musical life until the founding of the capital city of La Plata (later Chuquisaca, and since 1839, Sucre). As one of the wealthiest cities in the New World, La Plata became an important intellectual and musical center in Spanish America. Juan de Araújo (1646–1712), chapelmaster of the cathedral, was the most notable composer during the seventeenth century; the cathedral music library was improved with valuable manuscripts from European and American composers. A century later sacred music was directed by Manuel Mesa y Carrizo (d. 1773). After La Paz became the capital of Bolivia, musical activity became centered there. The first institutions founded were the Military School of Music (1904), the Conservatorio Nacional (1908), and the Círculo de Bellas Artes (1910). The Orquesta Nacional was created in 1940 by the leading nationalist composer José María Velasco-Maidana (b. 1900). Better known worldwide from that period were Eduardo Caba (1890–1953) and Simeón Roncal (1870–1953). Atiliano Auza-León (b. 1928) and Alberto Villalpando (b. 1940), both pupils of Ginastera's at the Di Tella Institute, experimented with serial and other avant-garde techniques.


During the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries the music of the church in Chile developed from simple plainchant and villancicos with guitar and flute accompaniment to complex polyphonic choral works, including pontifical masses. The secular music of the period of independence sounded strong echoes of European romanticism, especially in the piano pieces. And Italian opera found an avid and loyal audience among the general population. Two major institutions were founded in Santiago: the Conservatorio Nacional de Música (1849) and the Teatro Municipal (1857). In Valparaíso, the city that shared cultural life with the capital, the first opera stage was the Teatro de la Victoria (1844). In early 1800 the Sociedades Filarmónicas gave public concerts at Santiago, Valparaíso, Valdivia, Copiapó, Antofagasta, and Concepción. Composers of that era wrote instrumental music in the European romantic style and used the Italian technique when composing opera. Aquinas Ried (1810–1869) was a German native and author of the first Chilean opera, La telesofra (1846). Other musicians of that time were Manuel Robles (1780–1837), José Zapiola (1802–1885), Isidora Zegers (1803–1869), Federico Guzmán (1837–1885), and another German, Guillermo Frick (1813–1896).

A postromantic period was headed by Enrique Soro (1884–1954) and Alfonso Leng (1894–1974). Pedro H. Allende (1885–1959), a leader of nationalism, composed in an impressionistic style and incorporated Indian tunes into his works. Próspero Bisquertt (1881–1959), Carlos Lavin (1883–1962), and Carlos Isamitt (1887–1974) composed in a similar manner. Chilean art music, however, is the least nationalist of all in Latin America. Domingo Santa Cruz (1899–1987), a very influential composer, teacher, and administrator between 1920 and 1960, became a proponent of Hindemith's method of composition. An active promoter of academic institutions in Chile, he organized the Facultad de Artes Musicales and was its dean until 1965. In his footsteps came Jorge Urrutia-Blondel (b. 1905) and Alfonso Letelier (1912–1994). Juan Orrego-Salas (b. 1919) is well known outside Chile for his considerable output of interesting works, and for his work as director of the Latin American Music Center at Indiana University (1961–1990). The younger generation of Chilean composers, all of them experimenting with the lastest compositional techniques, includes Gustavo Becerra (b. 1925), León Schidlowsky (b. 1931), Fernando García (b. 1930), Miguel Aguilar-Ahumada (b. 1931), Juan Aménabar (b. 1922), and José Vicente Asuar (b. 1933).



Sacred music was introduced by the Franciscan monks but from 1550 on, the Jesuits were more influential in musical training in Bahia. The first organs were built in Pernambuco and Minas Gerais, and the first colonial composition (1759) was written in Bahia by Caetano de Mello Jesus, one of the chapelmasters (1740–1760) of the Bahia cathedral, the center of musical development at that time. In the late eighteenth century Minas Gerais was the social, artistic, and commercial center of the country. The music composed there came to a peak with the important religious works written by José Lôbo de Mesquita (ca. 1740–1805), Ignacio Parreiras Neves (ca. 1730–ca. 1793), Marcos Coelho Netto (d. 1823), Francisco Gomes da Rocha (d. 1808), and the prolific Bahian composer Damião Barbosa de Araújo (1778–1856). The most prominent religious composer of the colonial period was José Mauricio Nunes García (1767–1830), who wrote many masses and a famous requiem, and was chapelmaster of the Rio de Janeiro cathedral (1798).

Opera bloomed early in Bahia with the Casa da Opera da Praia (1760), followed by the Casa da Opera (1798), Teatro do Guadalupe, and Teatro São João (destroyed 1922). In Rio de Janeiro opera houses included the Royal Theater (later Imperial), San Pedro de Alcantara (1824), and Teatro Municipal (1909). Antonio Carlos Gomes (1836–1896) became the most prominent South American opera composer of the nineteenth century; his Il Guaraní premiered at the Teatro alla Scala (1870).

Itiberé da Cunha (1846–1913) was considered a nationalist composer, but it was Alberto Nepomuceno (1864–1920) who created the basis of a national movement. This trend was continued by Heitor Villa-Lobos (1887–1959), who composed more than one thousand works, and by Oscar Lorenzo Fernândez (1897–1948) and Luciano Gallet (1893–1931). In the next generation Francisco Mignone (1897–1986) and Camargo Guarnieri (b. 1907) both gained international reputations. Claudio Santoro (1919–1989) explored dodecaphonic theory and later the Bahian Group of Composers, founded in 1966, dedicated itself to experimenting with most advanced techniques. Carlos Nobre (b. 1939), who studied at the Di Tella Institute with Ginastera, Messiaen, Malipiero, and Dallapiccola, has achieved international recognition.


French operetta was performed at the Asunción Teatro Nacional in 1875, and Italian opera arrived, on the same stage, around 1877. The Orquesta Sinfónica de Asunción was founded (1951) by composer and conductor Carlos Lara-Bareiro (b. 1914), a music professor trained in Brazil, who settled in Buenos Aires (1960). His compositions, like those of Herminio Giménez (b. 1905), who studied at the Williams Conservatory in Buenos Aires, are nationalist and evoke Guaranian legends and tunes.


Sacred music was first heard in Montevideo at the Church of San Francisco in 1724 and later at the cathedral (1804). Hymns, villancicos, and psalms were performed early on, while more ornate polyphonic music developed in the 1800s. The San Francisco archives contain primitive liturgical works and elaborate masses of European and American origin. Fray Manuel Ubeda (ca. 1760–1823) wrote the Misa para día de difuntos (1802), the first religious work written in Uruguay. Three major chapelmasters settled in Montevideo, the Spaniards Antonio Sáenz (1829) and Carmelo Calvo (1871), and the Italian José Giuffra (1850). Theater music started with performances of Spanish tonadillas escénicas and zarzuelas at the Casa de Comedias (1793). In the 1820s Italian opera arrived in Montevideo, resulting in the construction of the Teatro Solís (1856), one of the largest opera houses in South America (2,800 seats) and site of the Montevideo debuts of Toscanini and Caruso (1903) and Richard Strauss conducting his Elektra (1923). Opera and concerts were also performed at the Teatro San Felipe (1879), Politeama (1890), Cibils (1893), and Urquiza, later the SODRE (3,000 seats), which opened in 1905 (destroyed by fire in 1971). The public's appetite for chamber and symphonic music was satisfied by the Sociedades Filarmónicas (1827–1853); the Orquesta Beethoven (1897); the Orquesta Nacional (1908); the Sociedad Orquestal (1929); OSSODRE (1931), the first official symphony orchestra. The Cuarteto La Lira (1873) initiated chamber music in Montevideo.

The three leading composers of the nineteenth century were Tomás Giribaldi (1847–1930), author of La parisina (1878), the first Uruguayan opera; León Ribeiro (1854–1931), who wrote the first string quartet; and Luis Sambucetti (1860–1926), who studied at the Paris Conservatory and composed the Suite d'orchestre (1899), the best symphonic work of that period. Nationalism started with three major composers: Alfonso Broqua (1876–1946), Eduardo Fabini (1882–1950), and Luis Cluzeau Mortet (1889–1957). César Cortinas (1890–1918) and Carlos Estrada (1909–1970) wrote in a universal style that, especially in Estrada's works, approached neoclassicism. The next generation was made up of both nationalistic composers and those experimenting with more advanced techniques, and included Vicente Ascone (1897–1979), Carlos Giucci (1904–1958), and Guido Santórsola (b. 1904). Héctor Tosar (1923–2002), the principal composer in the 1950s, has become universally well known since then. To the same generation belong Jaurés Lamarque Pons (1917–1982), Pedro Ipuche-Riva (b. 1924), Ricardo Storm (b. 1930), León Biriotti (b. 1929), and Antonio Mastrogiovanni (b. 1936). José Serebrier (b. 1938) and Sergio Cervetti (b. 1941), both living in the United States, are active as conductor and teacher, respectively.


Religious music performed by the organ was heard in the church of Santiago del Estero as early as 1585, but the zenith of the colonial music period came with the Italian composer and organist Domenico Zipoli (1688–1726), when he arrived in Córdoba in 1717, then the most cultivated city in Argentina. Sacred music in Buenos Aires was introduced by the Jesuits (1611) and performed in the cathedral beginning in 1622. Stage music began to flourish with performances of tonadillas escénicas and zarzuelas at the Casa de Operas y Comedias (1757), and later at the Teatro de la Ranchería (1783). But it was at the Coliseo Provisional (1804), the Teatro de la Victoria (1838), the old Teatro Colón (1857–1888), and the Teatro de la Opera (1872) that Italian opera began its reign. La gatta bianca, the first Argentine opera, was performed at the Teatro de la Opera in 1877. With the opening of the new Teatro Colón (1908), which seats about four thousand spectators, international opera seasons began.

At the same time, there was enthusiastic popular interest in symphonic and chamber music not only in Buenos Aires, home of the Conservatorio Nacional, founded in 1880, but in Córdoba, Mendoza, Rosario, and other cities. The most celebrated composers of the nineteenth century were Juan Pedro Esnaola (1808–1878), Amancio Alcorta (1805–1862), and Juan Bautista Alberdi (1810–1884). The work of Alberto Williams (1862–1952), the most influential composer and teacher of that era, began a period of great advancement in music education. Arturo Berutti (1862–1938), whose operas, which premiered in Italy, were based on native plots, was a pioneer of nationalism in opera. He was followed by Felipe Boero (1884–1958), composer of El matrero (1929). Carlos López Buchardo (1881–1948) and Floro Ugarte (1884–1975) continued to refine the nationalist style, while Juan Carlos Paz (1897–1972), together with the composers Jacobo Ficher (1896–1978), Juan José Castro (1895–1968) and his brothers José María (1892–1964) and Washington Castro (b. 1909), Gilardo Gilardi (1889–1963), and Luis Gianneo (1897–1968), created the Grupo Renovación (1929) to search for new techniques and styles.

Roberto García Morillo (b. 1911) and Carlos Guastavino (b. 1914) belong to the next generation, which culminated with Alberto Ginastera (1916–1983), the most significant Latin American composer of the twentieth century. Rodolfo Arizaga (1926–1985), Roberto Caamaño (1923–1993), Francisco Kröpfl (b. 1928), and Alcides Lanza (b. 1929) are noteworthy representatives of the 1950s generation. The crop from the 1960s, many of them Ginastera pupils at the Di Tella Institute, includes Antonio Tauriello (b. 1931), Mauricio Kagel (b. 1931), Gerardo Gandini (b. 1936), Juan Carlos Zorzi (1936–1999), Armando Krieger (b. 1940), and Alicia Terzián (b. 1936).

See alsoCampos-Parsi, Héctor; Fernández Hidalgo, Gutierre; García Morillo, Roberto; Gutiérrez y Espinosa, Felipe; Morales, Melesio; Nepomuceno, Alberto; Rosas, Juventino; Theater.


Renato Almeida, Compendio de história da música brasileira, rev. ed. (1942).

Luiz H. Corrêa De Acevedo, Música e músicos do Brasil (1950).

Lauro Ayestaran, La música en el Uruguay (1953).

Alejo Carpentier, La música en Cuba, 2d ed. (1961).

Robert Stevenson, The Music of Peru (1960), Renaissance and Baroque Musical Sources in the Americas (1970), and Music in Mexico, 2d ed. (1971).

Rodolfo Arizaga, Enciclopedia de la música argentina (1971); Dictionary of Contemporary Music (1974).

Claro and J. Urrutia Blondel, Historia de la música en Chile (1979).

Gérard Béhague, Music in Latin America (1979); New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians (1980).

Susana Salgado, Breve historia de la música culta en el Uruguay, 2d ed. (1980); New Grove Dictionary of Opera (1992).

Additional Bibliography

Olsen, Dale A., and Daniel E. Sheehy, eds. The Garland Encyclopedia of World Music. Vol. 2: South America, Central America, Mexico and the Caribbean. New York: Garland, 1988.

Rodicio, Emilio Casares, et al., eds. Diccionario de la música española y hispanoamericana. Madrid: Sociedad General de Autores y Editores, 1999.

Sadie, Stanley, ed. The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians. London: Macmillan, 2001.

                                           Susana Salgado