José Castro (1895-1968) has
earned widespread recognition as one of the most important Argentine
composers of the 20th century. Since his twenties he championed
the modern music cause both as a conductor, performing South American
premieres of such works as Le Sacre du Printemps, and as
a composer, experimenting with dissonant techniques and neoclassicism.
Castro's musical language is synthesis of three different musical
trends: the Spanish, with modal Moorish colors and vital rhythms;
the French, with both "Franckian" textures and the biting
dissonances of Les Six; and the Argentine, with tango rhythms
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internationally known Argentine conductor.
Jose Castro was born to a family of musicians on March 7th. 1895,
in Avellaneda, province of Buenos Aires, Argentina. In this country,
he studied with Manuel POSADAS, Constantino GAITO and Eduardo FORNARINI
From the last two teachers, Castro inherited Gaito's fondness of
the folk element and Fornarini's tendency to controlled and cerebral
the French belle epoque, in the 1920s, he completed his studies
in Paris under the teachings of the composer Vicent D'INDY and the
pianist Edouard RISLER. Back in Buenos Aires in 1925, Castro devoted
himself mainly to orchestral conducting, making his debut in 1928
with the "Renacimiento" Chamber Orchestra. A year later, he was
invited to conduct the Argentinean premiere of "El amor brujo" ("Love,
the sorcerer") -piece by the eminent Spanish composer Manuel de
Falla- in the Colon Theatre in Buenos Aires. With this performance,
Castro initiated two fruitful and longlasting associations: first,
with the Colon Theatre, and second, with Manuel de Falla. Juan Jose
Castro's active and ever growing career as a conductor can be followed
decade by decade, between the 30s and the 50s. During the 1930s,
he was intensely busy with orchestras in Argentina. His programs
frequently included music by 20th century composers, such as the
French Impressionists, members of "Les Six", and contemporary Spanish
and Argentine composers.
decade of the 1940s marked the beginning of Castro's international
career. Some important tours throughout the Americas took him to
the USA -invited by Toscanini to conduct the NBC Symphony Orchestra,-
Mexico, Peru and Chile. Later, between 1947 and 1949, he was the
music director of the Philarmonic Orchestra of Cuba, and between
1949 and 1952, of the SODRE Symphony Orchestra in Montevideo, Uruguay.
the 50's Castro's international reputation continued to extend to
the rest of the world. In 1950, a succesful debut with the Belgrad
Symphony Orchestra, in Yugoslavia, launched a European tour that
included England, Switzerland, France, Spain, Norway and Finland.
After Europe, he travelled to Australia to conduct the Melbourne
Victorian Symphony Orchestra and other orchestras of that country
and New Zealand, between 1952 and 1953.
J. Castro and Argentine writer Victoria Ocampo (dedicated
after an absence of more than seven years, Castro returned to the
Argentine musical scene in 1955. Back in his native country, he
directed the National Symphony Orchestra until 1960. During these
years, the broad experience acquired in his tours and his exceptional
talent as a conductor, allowed Castro to transform this orchestra
into the foremost musical institution in the country.
last stages of Castro's career took place at the Music Festival
of California, USA, and in San Juan of Puerto Rico, where he bacame
the Dean of the National Conservatory after a formal request made
by its founder the violoncellist Pablo Casals.
neo-classic Argentine composer.
Jose Castro appeal as a composer is the result of his rich and eclectic
style, and of his balanced aesthetic sense. His works include numerous
symphonic pieces, fiIm music, chamber music, music for piano solo,
bandoneon solo, voice and piano, choir, operas and arrangements
of music by other composers such as Bach, Weber, and Julian Aguirre.
musical language is a very personal and original synthesis of three
different musical currents: the Spanish, with its modal scales,
moorish flavor and vital rhythm; the French, with Franck-like harmonies
and textures, and Impressionist atmospheres, and finally the Argentinean,
with its folk flavor from the countryside, and its urban tanto from
the "arrabal" (outskirts) of Buenos Aires. Among Castro's most important
pieces, mention is due to his Biblic Symphony (1932), the ballet
"Mekhano" (1934), the Sinfonia Argentina (1934), the Piano Concerto
(1941), the String Quartet (1944), "El Llanto de las Sierras" (The
weeping of the hills, 1947), "Corales Criollos no. 3" (Creole chorales
no. 3, 1953), and his operas "La Zapatera Prodigiosa" (The woundrous
shoemaker, 1943), "Proserpina y el Extranjero " (Proserpine and
the Foreigner, 1951) and "Bodas de Sangre" (Blood weedings, 1952).
a composer, Juan Jose Castro was always committed to the Argentine
avant-garde movement. ln 1929 he joined the "Grupo Renovacion" -that
grouped contemporary Argentine composers- and, in 1948, the Argentine
Composers Association. His pieces were awarded prizes in many ocassion.
The opera "Proserpine and the Foreigner" -premiered at the "Alla
Scala" Theatre in Milan- received the "VERDl" award after having
been chosen among 138 pieces; "Corales Criollos no. 2" won a prize
in Caracas at the Latin American Music Festival in 1953; and, lastly,
the National Fund for the Arts of Argentina awarded him the Honorary
Grand Prize in 1965 for his musical production.
Carlos Chaves, Alejo Carpentier, J. J. Castro, Hilario Gonzalez
and Julián Orbón in Venezuela, 1954
to his career as a composer and conductor; Castro held many important
administrative appointments: he was the General Director of the
Colon Theatre from 1933, professor in the National Conservatory
of Music in Buenos Aires from 1939 to 1943, member of the Fine Arts
National Council in Argentina from 1945 and member director of the
National Endowment for the Arts.
the Ricordi Prize ceremony, awarded to Julian Bautista (6/2/58).
J. J. Castro and Alberto Ginastera (first to the right) among others.
information about Manuel de Falla and Julian Bautista, two Spanish
composers and close friends of Castro's visit Julian Bautista 's
website at http://www.julianbautista.com.ar
photos from the personal archives of Ms. Raquel Aguirre de Castro.
Reproduction prohibited without written permission.