Although purists might have disliked the practice, making classical music more friendly to modern listeners has always been a regular part of the music world. I’ve written before about how much I’ve always enjoyed the swing versions of the classics that many big bands generated during their heyday, and certainly artists like Mantovani — and even Liberace — did their part to popularize the music of the early legends. But a guy with a less familiar name did his part too — and with a Latin flavor.
The Argentine pianist, composer, and conductor Waldo de los Rios began to gain some fame in the late 1960s, when he furnished most of the music for the Robert Taylor movie, Savage Pampas (Pampa Salvaje). It was just one of many film scores he would generate, but it was also about then that his career turned in a different direction — he began to explore the possibilities he saw in classical music.
Over the next decade or so, de los Rios continued to work in films but he would also make many appearances with prestigious organizations like the Madrid Philharmonic Orchestra. His arrangements of many of the classics would prove to be very popular, and when he hit the recording studio the success continued, with several well-received records. Most remembered now is probably his lively version of Mozart’s Symphony #40, but he covered many of the classical composers.
De los Rios was also was a talented composer in his own right and he received a lot of recognition for that side of his career too, but was he deeply troubled through the years. He eventually suffered a mental breakdown and committed suicide in 1977.