The Chavez manuscript

Scope and Content

A page of pencil autograph notes for the musical score of Chavez's orchestral work Initium. The work was commissioned by the Witan Club of Akron, Ohio, to celebrate the opening of the Edwin J. Thomas Performing Arts Hall. Chavez sketched the work in 1970, and completed the score over the next two years. It was performed for the first time by the Akron Symphony Orchestra on 9 October 1973, and the complete manuscript was given to the University of Akron for permanent display in the Thomas Hall. The eighteen-minute work is continuous, but divided into sections to create contrasting episodes. It is among the more experimental of his works, and draws economically on a large orchestral palette.

Administrative / Biographical History

In his lifetime, Carlos Antonio de Padua Chavez y Ramrez (1899-1978) was recognised as Mexico's leading musician, and as one of the three major composers in Latin America, along with Heitor Villa-Lobos and Alberto Ginastera. The son of an inventor and a headmistress, Chavez started to study piano at the age of nine, and almost immediately began to compose for himself. At the age of fifteen, he began work on his first symphony, which was completed in 1918.

When his work was presented in a public concert for the first time, in 1921, it provided a marked contrast to the musical conservatism of the time, and was described as a blend of Romanticism and Modernism.

In 1922 he married Otilia Ortiz, also a gifted musician. The couple embarked on a tour of Europe, to explore the musical scene, and to further Chavez's career. Between 1923 and 1925 he organised and conducted a series of Chamber music concerts, in which the works of Satie, Stravinsky, Shoenberg, Falla, Poulenc, Varse, and Milhaud were performed in Mexico for the first time. In 1928, he founded the Symphony Orchestra of Mexico, where he was to act as musical director for 21 seasons, and assumed directorship of the Mexican National Conservatory of Music. In 1933 he became chief of the Department of Fine Arts in the Secretariat of Public Education in Mexico. Between 1936 and the end of his life he conducted hundreds of concerts with the leading Orchestras of the United States, Europe and Latin America.

Access Information

Items in the collection may be consulted for the purpose of private study and personal research, within the controlled environment and restrictions of The Keep's Reading Rooms.

Acquisition Information

Donated by Professor Donald Mitchell in 1972.


Prepared by John Farrant, August 2002.

Other Finding Aids

An online catalogue is available on The Keep's website.

Conditions Governing Use

COPIES FOR PRIVATE STUDY: Subject to copyright, conditions imposed by owners and protecting the documents, digital copies can be made.

PUBLICATION: A reader wishing to publish material in the collection should contact the Head of Special Collections, in writing. The reader is responsible for obtaining permission to publish from the copyright owner.

Custodial History

Donated by Chavez in 1972 to Donald Mitchell, Professor of Music at the University of Sussex, who in turn donated it to the University.