Silvestre Revueltas


Influenced by the street-music of his native Mexico without quoting actual folk song, Revueltas's music combines rhythmic drive with a colourful approach to instrumentation. His melodies are often repetitive and tuneful, though set in a dissonant texture, in a manner similar to Stravinsky's Rite of Spring. His best-known work is the orgiastic orchestral crescendo Sensemayá.

Revueltas was born in the Mexican state of Durango on 31 December 1899. After initial training at Durango's Juárez Insitute, he studied violin and composition in Mexico City, and later in Austin, Texas and at the Chicago Musical College. During his early career as a violinist and conductor, Revueltas spent a great deal of time in the US, playing in a San Antonio theatre orchestra and conducting in Mobile, Alabama.

In 1929 Revueltas was recalled to Mexico City by Chávez to become assistant conductor of the Mexico Symphony Orchestra. During these years (1929-35) he composed works for the orchestra to perform and taught violin and chamber music at the Conservatory. The remainder of his career was spent teaching, though he toured Spain in 1937 and allied himself with the Republican cause. He died in Mexico City on 5 October 1940, his early death caused by alcoholism.

Revueltas's colourful and picturesque music, with its rhythmic complexities and bold lines, often reveals a wry, even cynical, sense of humour. His works for orchestra continue to occupy a place in the repertoire, though only Sensemayá is regularly programmed outside Mexico. He also wrote songs, chamber music, and film music.

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