Biography of Silvestre Revueltas

Born on December 31, 1899 in the town of Santiago Papasquiaro, in the state of Durango, Mexico, Silvestre Revueltas began studying violin at the age of eight. After one year at Saint Edward’s College in Austin, Texas, he went on to pursue his music studies at the Chicago Musical College (1918–1922) under Leon Sametini, Otakar Sevcík (violin), and Felix Borowski (composition). While conducting various theater orchestras in the southern U.S. during the 1920s, he often traveled to Mexico, where he toured and participated as a violinist in recitals of modern music. At the invitation of Carlos Chávez, he returned to Mexico to take up the post of assistant conductor of the Symphony Orchestra of Mexico, filling the position from 1929 to 1935. During this time, Revueltas also taught violin and composition at the National Conservatory of Music in Mexico City, as well as conducting the Conservatory Orchestra. Over the following year, he led the newly formed National Symphony Orchestra during its brief existence.

It was also in 1936 that he became president of the League of Revolutionary Writers and Artists, which included some of Mexico’s most prominent painters and writers of the time. In 1937, he went to Spain to lend support to the Republican cause in the Spanish Civil War, also conducting several of his orchestral works there. The largest part of Revueltas’ work was produced during the last ten years of his short life. Even so, his output was considerable. Besides orchestral works, his compositions include songs, chamber music (including four string quartets), numerous pieces for small orchestra, film and stage music and even revolutionary songs. Drawing from his eclectic cultural background and using imaginative compositional techniques, Revueltas defined a unique musical voice which was ahead of its time.

In 1940, barely forty years old, Revueltas succumbed to pneumonia aggravated by alcoholism.