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José Luis Greco

Born: 1953

Nationality: American

Publisher: UME

Photo © Sandra Gallardo

Born in New York City, José Luis Greco is the son of the Spanish dancers José Greco and Nila Amparo, and nephew of the great Metropolitan Opera star Norina Greco. As a youngster, he studied piano and guitar and performed as an actor and dancer. After years involved with rock and jazz, he obtained a B.F.A. in music from the City College of New York, where he studied with John Lewis of the Modern Jazz Quartet, among others. He did a Master’s Degree and Doctorate (ABD) in composition at Columbia University, studying with Mario Davidovsky, Jack Beeson, Chou Wen-chung and George Edwards. Before moving to the Netherlands, he had transcribed and orchestrated Ravi Shankar's Second Concerto for Sitar and Orchestra Raga-Mala, premiered by the NY Philharmonic under the direction of Zubin Mehta, and composed and conducted the production of his first opera, Aria Da Capo.

Greco first achieved recognition in the 1980s as composer, performer and co-founder of Cloud Chamber, an Amsterdam-based multi-media, dance, theatre and music company specializing in site-specific projects, and supported by the Dutch Ministry of Culture for ten consecutive years. The company appeared throughout Europe, including the Gulbenkian Foundation (Portugal), Documenta 8 (Germany), Eurodance Festival (France) and the Holland Festival, and at Lincoln Center in the U.S. During his ten years in the Netherlands, he also composed music for many ballet and dance theatre productions.

Among the commissions for concert works were those for Orkest De Volharding, The Mondriaan String Quartet and The Netherlands Wind Ensemble, these last two premiered in Amsterdam's Concertgebouw. Commissioned by the Dutch Ministry of Culture in 1992, his Spanish lyric opera Cuentos de la Alhambra (Tales of the Alhambra) received its world premiere in Haarlem and Amsterdam in February 1996.

Since 1994, Greco lives in Madrid, Spain, where his symphonic works have been premiered by the Spanish National Orchestra and Chorus, the National Youth Orchestra of Spain, the Symphony Orchestra of Spanish Radio and Television, the Gran Canaria Philharmonic, the Seville Symphony Orchestra, the Basque Symphony Orchestra, and the Madrid Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Sergiu Comissiona, Adrian Leaper, Andrés Salado, Miguel Romea and Enrique García Asensio, among others. His solo, chamber and choral compositions have enjoyed interpretations by some of Spain's most distinguished performers and ensembles, and have been presented in the most prestigious series and auditoria.

He has also composed many works for dance. These include scores for the Ballet Nacional de España (five years in world-wide touring repertoire); the Compañía Nacional de Danza; the Antonio Márquez Company; the inauguration gala of the 1995 Itálica Festival of Seville and the award-winning dance/theatre production Estado Hormonal.

Commissions include those from the Centro para la Difusión de la Música Contemporánea, the Spanish Ministry of Culture, the Consejería de Cultura de la Comunidad de Madrid, the Week of Sacred Music of Cuenca, the Centro Nacional de Difusión Musical and from individual musicians.

Although Spain has become the focal point of his activities, his ties to the Netherlands and the United States have remained strong. In Holland, commissions and premieres have come from the SNK (Association of Dutch Choruses), the Rembrandt Trio, Djazzez Modern Dance Company, the Chorus of the University of Amsterdam, and the Ricciotti Ensemble. The Mondriaan String Quartet commissioned him to compose a work for mezzo-soprano and string quartet, premiered his second string quartet, The Trouble with Happiness, at the Phillips Collection in Washington DC, and were featured in the world premiere recordings of Mudas, Celosías (both for mezzo-soprano and string quartet) and Trouble (his first string quartet) on the Verso label CD. In the United States he has received commissions from Downtown Music Productions, Franklin & Marshall College and The Queen's Chamber Band.

The Spanish Embassies in both Washington DC and Prague have invited Greco to present his works on various occasions. The Embassy in Washington DC organized two North American tours and a concert in the Phillips Collection's series Leading European Composers. Each of these all-Greco programs included a world premiere: the viola sonata Southern Comfort, the piano trio 3 Recipes for a Prodigal Life, and his second string quartet The Trouble with Happiness. The Embassy in Prague sponsored two world premieres: the first, his piano concerto Geografías del silencio, performed by Duncan Gifford and The Czech National Orchestra under the direction of Adrian Leaper, the second, Celosías, his adaptation of García Lorca’s Spanish Popular Songs, performed by mezzo-soprano Magdalena Llamas and the Zemlinsky String Quartet.

He has also always been interested in writing for young audiences and young musicians. For young audiences he has composed two orchestral works, three works of music theater, the arrangements for voices and orchestra of Basque traditional children's songs, and composed the theme music for El Conciertazo, Spanish National Television's award-winning Classical music show for kids. For young musicians he has composed a triptych for chamber orchestra based on Lewis Carroll’s Alice and a work for children’s choir and instrumental ensemble on poems by Robert Louis Stevenson.
His discography, on the Naxos (orchestral and chamber works), Channel Classics (chamber music), RTVE (orchestra), ASV (orchestral works), Autor (music for dance), Columna Música (music for dance), Albany Records (chamber music) and Verso (chamber music) labels, includes 6 all-Greco CDs.

In 2006 he was admitted into The Royal Spanish American Academy of Science, Arts and Letters (Cádiz, Spain).
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