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Chávez, Carlos (1899–1978)

Chávez, Carlos (1899–1978)

Carlos Chávez (b. 13 June 1899; d. 2 August 1978), Mexican composer, conductor, educator, and administrator. Chávez began piano studies with his brother and continued with Manuel Ponce and Luis Ogazón. His penchant for improvisation led him to begin composing at an early age. He wrote his first symphony at age sixteen, but most of his early works were miniatures derivative of European styles or drawn from the Mexican song tradition. A concert of his works in 1921 brought public awareness of a new creative voice in Mexico. Travels in 1922 left him discouraged over the conservative state of music in Europe. Back in Mexico he produced new music concerts, but impatient for a better response, he moved to New York City (1926–1928) and received professional encouragement from the new music establishment, notably Aaron Copland, Roger Sessions, and Edgard Varèse. Chávez returned to Mexico in 1928 and was appointed director of the Symphony Orchestra of Mexico (remaining twenty-one years). Quick success led to directorships of the National Conservatory and fine arts department in the Ministry of Education. His conducting reputation grew rapidly through engagements with the New York Philharmonic and NBC Orchestras (1937–1938). In 1947 President Miguel Alemán named him founding director of the National Institute of Fine Arts with sweeping authority over all of the arts.

Chávez was an active and productive writer, lecturer, conductor, teacher, and statesman, but claimed these activities were no more than a means for him to compose. His most widely accepted composition was the nationalistic work employing Mexican Indian themes, Sinfonía india (1935). His more abstract and cerebral style in later years signaled a move away from nationalism.

See alsoMusic: Art Music .


Robert L. Parker, Carlos Chávez: Mexico's Modern-Day Orpheus (1984).

Additional Bibliography

Alcaraz, José Antonio. Carlos Chávez, un constante renacer. México, D.F.: Instituto Nacional de Bellas Artes, Centro Nacional de Investigación, Documentación e Información Musical, 1996.

Cuesy, Silvia L. Carlos Chávez. México: Planeta DeAgostini, 2002.

                                    Robert L. Parker

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