Born: December 31, 1899; Santiago Papasquiaro, Mexico
Died: October 5, 1940; Mexico City, Mexico
Silvestre Revueltas' music -- most of it written during the last decade of his short life -- bursts with energy, instrumental color, and mocking humor. Revueltas began violin studies at age eight; the years 1913-16 found him in Mexico City studying composition and violin. From there Revueltas headed north to Texas to study at St. Edward College in Austin (1916-1918) and then to the Chicago Musical College (1918-1920). Revueltas returned to MexicoRead more to give violin recitals in the capital and several states. But Chicago drew him back in 1922 for a four-year course of violin study. In the mid-1920s Revueltas made trips down to Mexico for several series of recitals of modern music; his piano accompanist was the young Carlos Chávez.
Ultimately, Chávez persuaded him to return to Mexico City to teach violin and chamber music at the National Conservatory and to serve as assistant conductor of Chávez's newly formed Orquesta Sinfónica de México, a position he held from 1929-1935. During this time, Revueltas also became active in the cause of artists' and workers' rights.
Between 1931 and 1934, Revueltas wrote six "picture-postcard" pieces for orchestra, ten-minute tone poems usually inspired by Mexican scenes, although when asked what such compositions as Ventanas or Caminos were about, he would say only, "It all depends on the good or bad will of the listener."
After a rupture with Chávez, Revueltas quit the Orquesta Sinfónica de México and, in the spring of 1936, formed the rival and short-lived Orquesta Sinfónica Nacionál. The failure of that ensemble left him free to tour Spain in 1937. He traveled there in his capacity as secretary general of the League of Revolutionary Writers and Artists, supporting the cultural activities of the Loyalist government, directing various concerts and presenting some of his own music. Revueltas returned to Mexico the following year; he took up teaching again, and wrote a half-dozen scores for Mexican films. His first such effort, Redes (Nets), had come in 1935 for a social protest movie set in a poor fishing village. It became his most frequently played score, after the short, hypnotically brutal Sensemayá (1938). Revueltas was hard-living and self-destructive; although he officially succumbed to pneumonia at age 40, the long-term truth is that he drank himself to death. What survives is a decade's worth of arresting, concentrated works of differing character that shares a single, forceful voice. Read less