Antonio de Almeida
About Antonio de Almeida
Born in Paris to an American mother and a Portuguese aristocrat father, Antonio de Almeida retained French citizenship throughout his life and identified most closely with French culture. As a musicologist, he was the twentieth century's leading expert on the music of Jacques Offenbach. As a conductor, he applied himself to a wide range of repertory, notably opera, but he worked especially hard to gain attention for neglected French music. His final project was to record all the symphonies of Henri Sauguet and Charles Tournemire; he died of cancer just one disc short of his goal. (The engineer for these last discs, incidentally, was Almeida's son, Tony Jr.) Almeida's godfather was pianist Artur Rubinstein and it was Rubinstein who persuaded him to give up a scholarship to study nuclear chemistry at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and switch to music. Almeida had already studied musicology in Argentina with Alberto Ginastera, and he quickly took Rubinstein's advice and transferred to Yale, where he studied music theory with Paul Hindemith and conducting with Serge Koussevitsky and George Szell. Almeida began conducting on Portuguese radio in 1949, and soon was appointed music director of the Oporto Symphony Orchestra. There, he met guest conductor Thomas Beecham and within a year, Beecham invited Almeida to London to conduct his Royal Philharmonic Orchestra. A busy guest-conducting schedule developed, as did a series of appointments as chief conductor and music director: Portuguese radio from 1957 to 1960, the Stuttgart Philharmonic from 1962 to 1964, the Opéra de Paris from 1965 to 1967, and the Moscow Symphony Orchestra from 1993 until his death. For his efforts to promote French music around the world, Almeida was named a Chevalier of the Legion of Honor in 1976, later rising within that organization to the rank of commander. He was also elected a Commander of Arts and Letters in France in 1996. While devoting much time to conducting and recording, Almeida also steadily worked as a musicologist. He became co-artistic director of the Haydn Foundation with H.C. Robbins Landon in 1968. Almeida prepared performing editions of all the Boccherini symphonies and compiled a thematic catalog of the works of Offenbach, which was not published until shortly after his death.