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Biography

Silvestre Revueltas (December 21, 1899 - October 5, 1940) was a Mexican composer of classical music, violinist and conductor. His rhythmic and sometimes dissonant style draws from Mexican folk music, considered by some to be a 'Mexican Béla Bartók'.

He was born in Santiago Papasquiaro in Durango, and studied at the National Conservatory in Mexico City, St Edward College in Austin, Texas and the Chicago College of Music. He gave violin recitals and in 1929 was invited by Carlos Chávez to become assistant conductor of the Mexico Symphony Orchestra, a post he held until 1935. He and Chávez did much to promote contemporary Mexican music. It was around this time that Revueltas began to compose in earnest.

He was part of a family of artists of whom were also famous and recognized in Mexico his brother Jose Revueltas as a writer; Fermin, as a painter, and her sister Rosaura as an actress and dancer.

He went to Spain and worked for the Republicans during the Spanish Civil War, but upon Francisco Franco's victory, returned to Mexico to teach. He earned little, and fell into poverty and alcoholism. He died in Mexico City on the day his ballet El renacuajo paseador, written seven years earlier, was premiered.

He wrote film music, chamber music, songs and a number of other works. Among his orchestral music are a number of symphonic poems with Sensemayá: Chant for the Killing of a Snake (1938), based on a poem by Nicolás Guillén, the most famous. His musical language is tonal but often dissonant, rhythmically vital, and frequently has a distinctly Mexican flavour.

He appeared briefly as a bar piano player in the movie ¡Vámonos con Pancho Villa! (Mexico, 1935), for which he composed the music, placing a sign over the piano saying Se suplica no tirarle al pianista (We beg you not to shoot at the pianist).

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