Sunday, September 7, 2014

Remembering Waldo de los Rios

Waldo de los Rios was born Osvaldo Nicholas Ferrara Guttierez on September 7, 1934 in Buenos Aires, Argentina. His father was a musician and his mother a well-known folk singer; he studied composition and arranging at the National Conservatory of Music under Alberto Ginastera and Teodoro Fuchs. He was inspired by an eclectic range of music and formed a musical group called "The Waldos" which crossed folk music with electronic sounds. De los Rios turned to work in cinema and film sound tracks where his compositions were heard in the 1967 film “Pampa Salvaje”, for which he received a prestigious award from the Argentine Cinemagraphic Association. He moved to the U.S.A. in 1958 and then to Spain in 1962.
 
He is best remembered for his ability to transform European classical music into pop music. His 1971 arrangement of Mozart's Symphony No. 40, recorded with the Manuel de Falla orchestra, reached the top spot in the Dutch charts and scored a top 10 hit in several other European countries. In 1970, prior to this success, Waldo de los Rios had already climbed the charts around Europe and America with Ludwig van Beethoven's Ode To Joy, which he arranged and conducted for Miguel Ríos.
 
His record Mozart in the Seventies rearranged famous Mozart pieces in a contemporary style, with a large percussion section. Several tracks from it were used as theme tunes for BBC programs of that era, including the theme to the BBC's coverage of the ‘Horse of the Year Show’. His re-working of Eine Kleine Nachtmusik, was used for many years as the theme to the Radio 4 quiz show ‘Brain of Britain’, and was the subject of frequent complaints from classical music fans (with whom the show was popular) and presenter Robert Robinson described it on air as "Mozart plus sacrilege".
 
Waldo also issued an album Symphonies for the Seventies which included Mozart's Symphony no. 40 and other major composers including Dvořák's New World. In 1971, he arranged and conducted the Spanish entry for the Eurovision Song Contest, "En un mundo nuevo" for Karina. The song landed a respectable second position and hit the charts in several European countries.
 
De los Rios scored two Euro-westerns besides the South American western “Savage Pampas” previously mentioned. He wrote the scores for “A Town Called Hell” (1971) and “Bad Man’s River” (1972).
 
Waldo was married to actress turned journalist/author Isabel Pisano [1944- ]. Pisano later documented part of his life in her autobiography El Amado Fantasma (Plaza y Janés, 2002).
 
A victim of an acute depression while working on "Don Juan Tenorio", de los Rios committed suicide in Madrid on March 28, 1977 by shooting himself.
 
Today we remember Waldo de los Rios on what would have been his 90th birthday.

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