Robert Greenberg

Historian, Composer, Pianist, Speaker, Author

Archive for Carlos Chávez

Dr. Bob Prescribes Carlos Chávez: Complete Symphonies

Chávez’s emergence as a composer in 1920 – at the age of 21 – could not have been better timed. You see, 1920 saw the end of the Mexican Revolution and the inauguration of Álvaro Obregón as a constitutional president. According to musicologist J. Carlos Estenssoro: “A new cultural nationalism began to take shape. The government became the chief patron of the arts, with a view to bringing culture to the masses, and great emphasis was placed on the indigenous Indian cultures, particularly those of the pre-Conquest era. In 1921 Chávez met Jose Vasconcelos, the dynamic minister of education and patron of the arts who commissioned him to write a ballet on an Aztec subject. [In composing] El feugo nuevo, Chávez established himself as the first composer to enunciate this new nationalism.”  Yes, it is true: as a composer, especially early in his career, Chávez had “nationalist leanings,” meaning that the pre-Columbian and post-Columbian folk music of his native Mexico informed – to varying degrees (though sometimes not at all) – his concert music. But Carlos Chávez was much, much more than merely a “nationalist” composer, and the constant references to him and his music as being so doesn’t tell […]

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