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Orrego-Salas, Juan (Antonio)

(b Santiago, 18 Jan 1919). Chilean composer and musicologist. In 1943 he completed his composition studies with Pedro Allende and Domingo Santa-Cruz, and also took a diploma in architecture. He taught history at the Santiago Conservatory and conducted the Catholic University Choir, which he had founded in 1938. From 1944 to 1946 Rockefeller and Guggenheim grants enabled him to study in the USA: he studied composition with Thompson and Copland and musicology with Paul Henry Lang and George Herzog. He was then appointed professor of composition at the University of Chile (1947), editor of the Revista musical chilena (1949) and music critic for El mercurio (1950). After completing the degree of Profesor Extraordinario at the University of Chile (1953) he returned to the USA with a second Guggenheim Fellowship. Back in Chile he was for two years director of the Instituto de Extensión Musical and dean of the music department of the Catholic University. He moved again to the USA to found and direct the Latin American Music Center at Indiana University (1961–87), where he was involved in promoting Latin-American music through festivals, concerts, broadcasts and the compiling of the largest existing library of scores and recordings of 20th-century works from this area. In 1971 he received an honorary doctorate from the Catholic University, Santiago, and was accorded corresponding membership of the Chilean Academy of Fine Arts. He has won the Olga Cohen Prize twice (1956 and 1958) and a Biennial Chilean Music Festival Award three times. He received the Gabriel Mistral Prize in 1988 and the Chilean National Arts Prize in 1992. Works have been commissioned by leading institutions and ensembles, and his music has been widely performed.

A neo-classical craftsmanship, tempered by free invention, is characteristic of Orrego-Salas’s music. Formal procedures taken from all periods after the Middle Ages are used without strictness. Something of the variety in his output is demonstrated in the modal linearity of the Canciones castellanas op.20, the colourful instrumentation and energetic rhythm of the Sonata a 4 op.55, and the declamatory monody and concertante writing of the cantata América, no en vano invocamos tu nombre op.57. Since 1961, Orrega-Salas has allowed musical absolutes to permeate his music and play a role in the creation of through-composed forms. Through an architectural process which he describes as ‘minimalist’ he focusses the listener's attention on the most salient modules of a composition, thereby imparting an element of referentiality to ever-changing textures.


(selective list)

Dramatic: Juventud (ballet) op.24, 1948; [after Handel: Solomon]

El retablo del rey Pobre (op-orat), 1950–52 [after ensaladilla by J. de Valdivielso]; Umbral del sueño (Impulsos) (ballet) op.30, 1951; La veta del diablo (film score), op.37, 1953; La caleta olvidada (film score), 1959; The Tumbler’s Prayer (El saltimbanqui) (ballet), op.48, 1960; Versos de ciego (incid music, L.A. Heiremans), 1961; Widows (Viudas) (op, prol, 3, Orrego-Salas, after A. Dorfman), op.101, 1990

Orch: Escenas de cortes y pastores, op.19, 1946; Obertura festiva, op.21, 1948; Sym no.1, op.46, 1949; Pf Conc. op.28, 1950; Sym. no.2 ‘To the Memory of a Wanderer’, op.39, 1954; Serenata concertante, op.40, 1954; Jubilaeus musicus, op.45, 1957; Sym. no.3, op.50, 1961; Concerto a 3, op.52, pf trio, orch, 1962; Concerto, op.53, wind, 1964; Sym. no.4 ‘Of the Distant Answer’, op.59, 1966; Variaciones serenas, op.69, str, 1971; Ob Conc., op.77, 1980; Vn Conc., op.86, 1984; Pf Conc. no.2, op.93, 1985; Riley's Merriment (Scherzo), op.94, a sax, pf, perc, orch, 1986; Fantasia, op.95, pf, wind orch, 1987; Fanfare, op.97, 1987; Vc Conc., op.104, 1992; Sym. no.5, op.109, 1995; Sinfonia in 1 movt ‘Semper reditus’, op.112, 1997

Choral: No lloreis mis ojos (L. de Vega), op.3, SATB, 1937, withdrawn; 2 Songs (G.M. de Jovellanos, G. Mistral), op.4, S, pf, 1938, withdrawn; 4 canciones corales (trad., St John of the Cross), op.6, SATB, 1942; Canto a lo Divino (trad.), op.7, SATB, 1942; Let down the bars, oh death (E. Dickinson), op.8, SATB, 1945; Romances pastorales (L. de Góngora y Argote), op.10, SATB, 1945; Cánones y rondas (trad.), children's chorus, 1946; Romance del señor don Gato (trad.), op.16, TTBB, 1946; Cánticos de Navidad (de Vega, Orrego-Salas), op.22, SSA, 1948; Alboradas (de Vega), op.56, SSA, hp, pf, perc, 1965; América, no en vano invocamos tu nombre (P. Neruda), op.57, S, Bar, male chorus, orch, 1966; 3 Madrigals (Sp. 15th century), op.62, 1967; Missa in tempore discordiae, op.64, T, SATB, orch, 1969; The Days of God (orat, after Bible: Genesis), op.73, S, A, T, B, chorus, orch, 1975; Un canto a Bolivar (Neruda), op.78, TTB, folk insts, 1981; Bolivar (Orrego-Salas), op.81, nar, SATB, orch, 1982; Lo que no digo, lo canto (Orrego-Salas), op.83, male vv, folk insts, 1982; La ciudad celeste (cant., Orrego-Salas, after Bible: Revelation), op.105, Bar, SATB, orch, 1992; The Goat that couldn't Sneeze (trad. Mexican tale), op.106, children's vv, chbr orch, 1992; 3 canticos sagrados, op.108, chbr chorus, fl, cl, hn, str qt, hp, perc, 1995; Himno a la Cordillera, op.113, SATB, orch, 1997

Chbr: 2 Pieces, op.1, vn, pf, 1936, withdrawn; Poem, op.5, fl, pf, 1938, withdrawn; Sonata, op.9, vn, pf, 1945, rev. 1964; Sonata a 2, op.11, vn, va, 1945; Conc. da camera, op.34, ww qt, 2 hn, hp, str, 1952; Sextet, op.38, cl, pf, str qt, 1954; Duos concertantes, op.41, vc, pf, 1955; Pastoral y scherzo, op.42, vn, pf, 1956; 2 divertimentos, opp.43–4, fl, ob, bn, 1956; Str Qt no.1, op.46, 1957; Concertino, op.54, brass qt, 1963; Sonata a 4 (Edgewood Sonata), op.55, fl, ob, hpd, db, 1964; Pf Trio, op.58, 1966; 4 liriche brevi, op.61, sax, pf, 1967; Mobili, op.63, va, pf, 1967; A Greeting Cadenza for William Primrose, op.65, va, pf, 1970; Volte, op.67, pf, 15 wind, hp, perc, 1971; Serenata, op.70, fl, vc, 1972; Sonata de estio, op.71, fl, pf, 1972; Presencias, op.72, fl, ob, cl, hpd, str trio, 1972; De Profundis, op.76, tuba, vc qt, 1979; Trio no.2, op.75, vn, vc, pf, 1977; Variations for a Quiet Man op.79, cl, pf, 1980; Tangos, op.82, 11 players, 1982; Balada, op.84, vc, pf, 1983; Glosas, op.91, vn, gui, 1984; For Young Violinists (Andantino), op.96, 1987; Gyrocantus, op.98, fl, cl, vn, vc, hpd, cel, perc, 1987; Midsummer Diversions, op.99, vc, tuba, 1987; Partita, op.100, a sax, vn, vc, pf, 1988; Diferencia del Retablo, op.102, 2 pf/pf 4 hands, 1991; 3 Fanfarrias, op.107, brass qnt, 1994; Str Qt no.2, op.110, 1996; Pf Qnt (Variations on themes of Schubert), 1997

Solo vocal: 2 Songs (Jovellanos, Mistral), op.4, S, pf, 1938, withdrawn; Canciones en 3 movimientos (G. Cruchaga), op.12, S, str qt, 1945; Cantata de Navidad (St John of the Cross, L. de Vega), op.13, S, orch, 1945; Song (C.G. Rossetti), op.15, A, pf, 1946; Canciones castellanas (M. de Santillana, G. Vicente, J. del Encina), op.20, S, fl, cl, eng hn, tpt, hp, perc, va, vc, 1948; Romancillo (F. de Borja), op.23, A, pf, 1948; Cantos de advenimiento (D. de la Vega, G. Mistral), op.25, S, vc, pf, 1948; El alba del Alhelí (R. Alberti), op.29, S, pf, 1950; Garden Songs (C. Benavente), op.47, S, fl, va, hp, 1959, rev. 1967; Alabanzas a la Virgen (J. de Valdivielso, other old Span.), op.49, S/T, pf, 1959; Psalms, op.51, reciter, wind orch, 1962; Words of Don Quixote, Bar, ens, 1970; Psalms (Bible) op.74, B, pf, 1977; Canciones en el estilo popular (Neruda), op.80, 1v, gui, 1981; Biografía mínima de Salvador Allende (D. Valjalo), op.85, 1v, tpt, gui, perc, San Diego, 1983; Cinco canciones a seis (20th-Century Sp. poets), op.87, Mez, 2 vn, cl, vc, pf, 1984; Ash Wednesday (cant., T.S. Eliot), op.88, Mez, str, 1984; Cancion de Cuna, op.103, S, gui, 1991

Solo inst: Minuetto, op.2, pf, 1937, withdrawn; Pf Suite no.1, op.14, 1946; Variaciones y fuga sobre un pregón, op.18, pf, 1946; 10 piezas simples para niños, op.31, pf, 1951; Pf Suite, op.32, 1951; Cancion y danza para niños, op.33, pf, 1951; Rústica, op.35, pf, 1952; Suite, op.36, bandoneon, 1952; Pf Sonata, op.60, 1967; Esquinas, op.68, gui, 1971; Dialogues in Waltz, op.89, pf 4 hands, 1984; Rondo-Fantasia, op.90, pf, 1984; Variations on a chant, op.92, hp, 1984

Principal publishers: Barry, Chester, Hargail, Instituto de Extensión Musical, Pan-American Union, Peer, C.F. Peters


‘El empleo de la forma en la música de Soro’, RMC, no.30 (1948), 18–23

‘Los “Lieder” de Alfonso Leng’, RMC, no.54 (1957), 59–64

‘The Young Generation of Latin American Composers: Backgrounds and Perspectives’, Inter-American Music Bulletin, no.38 (1963), 1–10

‘Rol de la educación musical en las relaciones entre la creación artistica y el público’, RMC, nos.87–8 (1964), 46–56

‘The Acquisition of Latin American Books and Music’, Notes, xxii (1965–6), 1008–13

‘Araucanian Indian Instruments’, EthM, x (1966), 48–57

‘Heitor Villa-Lobos: figura, obra y estilo’, RMC, no.93 (1965), 25–62; Eng. trans. in Inter-American Music Bulletin, no.52 (1966) [whole issue]

ed. with G. List: Music of the Americas (Bloomington, 1967)

ed. : Music from Latin America Available at Indiana University: Scores, Tapes and Records (Bloomington, 1971)

‘Presencia de la arquitectura en mi música’, RMC, no.169 (1988–9), 5–20

‘El retablo del Rey Pobre Cuarenta Anos Después’, RMC, no.175 (1991), 57–71

‘Discurso de aceptación del Premio Nacional de Arte (1992)’, RMC, no.182 (1994), 11–13

Altazor y la Missa in tempore discordiae: reciprocidad de palabra y música’, RMC, no.182 (1994), 14–43

‘Los años cincuenta en Chile: una retrospectiva’, RMC, no.187 (1997), 42–5

Many other articles in Andean Monthly, Clave (Montevideo), Revista musical chilena, Tempo and Zig-Zag (Santiago)


V. Salas Viú: La creación musical en Chile (1900–1951) (Santiago, 1951)

D. Santa-Cruz: ‘El concierto para piano en la obra de Orrego-Salas’, RMC, no.68 (1959), 39–42

L. Merino: ‘Visión del compositor Juan Orrego-Salas’, RMC, nos.142–4 (1978), 5–112

G.R. Benjamin: ‘Dramme per musica en las obras de Juan Orrego-Salas, opera 76–106’, RMC, no.182 (1994), 44–100


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