EVENCIO CASTELLANOS (1915 - 1984)
Evencio Castellanos may well be considered one of the most significant and representative Venezuelan nationalistic composers of the twentieth century. Born into a family of active musicians, he received his first musical instruction in organ from his father, Pablo Castellanos, and piano lessons from Rafael González Guía in Caracas. At an early age he began to assist his father by playing organ in various churches in Caracas and eventually became the organist of the Cathedral of Caracas, a position his father held for many years. His first formal training in composition began at the Escuela de Santa Capilla, the founder of which was Vicente Emilio Sojo, perhaps the most imposing musical figure in Venezuelan musical history, who exerted a lasting influence over a whole generation of Venezuelan composers such as Gonzalo Castellanos-Yumar (brother of Evencio), Antonio Estévez, Ángel Sauce, Antonio Lauro, Carlos Figueredo, Blanca Estrella, José Clemente Laya, José Luis Muñoz, Raimundo Pereira, Modesta Bor and Inocente Carreño.
After furthering his musical studies in New York at the Dalcroze School of Music, Evencio Castellanos embarked on a dynamic and active musical life in Caracas, becoming a member of the Orquesta Sinfónica de Venezuela (of which Sojo was one of the founders in 1930) and, eventually, vice-president of its board of directors. In addition to his own prolific work as a composer he also enjoyed a long association with the Escuela Superior de Música, teaching composition and ultimately becoming its director between 1965 and 1972. The work and influence of Castellanos as a conductor cannot be underestimated. He was the founder and director of the Collegium Musicum of Caracas and the orchestra of the Universidad Central de Venezuela. His association and work with the Experimental Orchestra of the Orquesta Sinfónica de Venezuela wielded lasting influence over the creation of the current and vibrant movement of youth orchestras in Venezuela founded by José Antonio Abreu.
Castellanos’s compositional style can perhaps best be divided into works that are emblematic of the nationalistic influences set forth by Sojo, on the one hand, and on the other, sacred compositions influenced by his religious upbringing and life-long religious devotion. His major orchestral works are permeated with a nationalistic aesthetic and are infused with folkloric elements, as are most of his instrumental and chamber works. His various sacred choral and organ compositions are more representative of his religious orientation.
© Jan Wagner