March 7, 1895 - September 5, 1968
born in Avellaneda, composed during the Modern period
The second and most highly regarded of the four Castro brothers who took the Argentine music scene by storm during the first half of the twentieth century, composer and conductor Juan José Castro was born in the outskirts of Buenos Aires in early March of 1895. He learned the piano and violin as a child (two of the brothers learned violin, two learned cello) and as he grew a little older, took lessons in theory and composition in Buenos Aires. In the mid-'20s, he found his way into the composition class of Vincent d'Indy in Paris and then, after returning to Argentina, he began building a career as a conductor. He directed the newly formed Orquesta de Nacimiento in 1929 and one year later conducted for one season for the Teatro Colón Ballet. He was promoted to director of music at the Teatro in 1933 and henceforth appeared regularly at the Teatro and as guest conductor for orchestras both in Argentina and abroad (including the Melbourne Symphony in Australia and the Havana Philharmonic in Cuba). He never felt much suited to teaching; nevertheless, Pablo Casals talked him into serving as the head of music at the Puerto Rico Conservatory from 1959 to 1964. He died in Buenos Aires in 1968.
Castro's music was never played much outside of South America, but he did earn some prestigious awards for it, including a Guggenheim Grant (1934) and an ISCM Award (1931, for the orchestral piece Allegro lento e vivace). Theater and orchestral music are the genres best represented in his catalog of compositions, but there are also some three dozen songs, a fair bit of chamber music, some film scores, and several fine solo piano works. As can be said of so many South American composers of his era, Castro developed a musical style that blends traditional Spanish and Spanish-derived gestures with academic, French-oriented techniques. Sometimes the results Castro achieved are electrifying; sometimes the fusion is more mundane. ~ Blair Johnston, Rovi