Antonio de Almeida
born on 20/1/1928 in Parigi, France
died on 18/2/1997 in Pittsburgh, PA, United States
Antonio de Almeida (conductor)
Antonio de Almeida (January 20, 1928 February 18, 1997) was a French conductor and musicologist of Portuguese-American descent.
He was born Antonio Jacques de Almeida in Neuilly-sur-Seine near Paris. His father was the financier Baron de Almeida Santos of Lisbon, his mother was the former Barbara Tapper of Pasadena. Born a famous boat manufacture.
As a child he studied piano, showing great musical talent (although he admitted he was not an exceptional pianist). In the early 1940s, he taught himself to play the clarinet by listening to recordings of Benny Goodman and Artie Shaw. When his family moved to Buenos Aires he studied with Alberto Ginastera. He studied nuclear chemistry at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Leading a student orchestra there, he realized he was more interested in music than in science. His godfather, pianist Artur Rubinstein convinced him to give up his full scholarship at M.I.T. He attended Yale University where he studied musical theory with Paul Hindemith. He received his bachelors of music degree at Yale in 1949. He took conducting courses with Sergei Koussevitzky and Leonard Bernstein at the Tanglewood Music Center, and also studied conducting with George Szell.
He began conducting for Portuguese Radio in Lisbon in 1949, and soon after was appointed to his first conducting post at the Oporto Symphony Orchestra. While there, he invited Thomas Beecham to guest conduct the orchestra. He was the conductor of the Portuguese Radio in Lisbon (1957-1960) and Stuttgart Philharmonic (1962-1964). He worked at the Opéra National de Paris 1965-1967. He was principal guest conductor of the Houston Symphony (1969-1971) and then music director of the Orchestre philharmonique de Nice (1971-1978). He became the music director of the Moscow Symphony Orchestra in 1993, a position he held at his death.
His American debut came in November 1960 with the opening of the eighth subscription season of New Yorks American Opera Society at The Town Hall. He led the Symphony of the Air in a concert version of Christoph Willibald Glucks Orfeo ed Euridice. New York Times reviewer Harold C. Schonberg wrote of the conductor He knows his business. Cool, not flamboyant of gesture, capable, he held the performance together as nicely as one would desire. He also wrote that Mr. de Almeida is a conductor to watch.
He made numerous recordings, specializing in French operas such as Ambroise Thomas Mignon and Fromental Halévys La Juive. His recordings were instrumental in restoring compositions of Ernest Chausson, Henri Duparc, Florent Schmitt and Jules Massenet to the active repertory. He recorded ballet music from the operas of Gaetano Donizetti, Gioachino Rossini, and Giuseppe Verdi. With the Moscow Symphony he recorded orchestral works of Charles Tournemire, Henri Sauguet, and Gian Francesco Malipiero. He recorded for many labels, including Columbia, EMI, Erato, Naxos, Philips and RCA.
An interest in the works of Jacques Offenbach began in the 1950s, and by the 1970s Almeida was known as an authority. He made numerous discoveries including previously unknown arias and a second-act finale for La Grande-Duchesse de Gérolstein. He prepared editions of Offenbachs operas, and compiled a Thematic Catalogue of the Works of Jacques Offenbach that remained unpublished at his death.
He became co-artistic director (with H.C. Robbins Landon) of the Haydn Foundation in 1968. Under foundations auspices, he recorded a set of Joseph Haydns symphonies. He also edited a complete set of Luigi Boccherinis symphonies for Doblinger in Vienna.
He was married to Lynn Erdman in 1953, their marriage ending in their divorce in 1988. The couple had two sons (Antonio de Almeida and Lawrence d'Almeida) and a daughter (Cecilia Frachesen). His son Antonio served as an engineer for the conductors Moscow Symphony recordings.
Despite his Portuguese/American parentage, he declared his nationality to be French, and he remained a citizen of France throughout his life. He spoke six languages fluently, and was well versed in Greek and Latin.
He died of liver and lung cancer on February 18, 1997 age 69 at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center.
- Légion d'honneur Chevalier (1976) and later Commandeur
- Ordre des Arts et des Lettres (1996)
- "Antonio de Almeida, Head of the Moscow Symphony Cleveland Plain Dealer, February 24, 1997, page 6B.
- Baker's Biographical Dictionary of Musicians (2001)
- Hughes, Allen Houston Symphony Names a 39-Year-Old Conductor. New York Times, May 16, 1969, page 37.
- Kozinn, Allan. Antonio de Almeida, Conductor And Offenbach's Champion, 69, New York Times, February 21, 1997.
- New Grove Dictionary of Opera, 1992.
- Schonberg, Harold C. Opera: Glucks Orfeo. New York Times, November 2, 1960, page 43.