ALESSANDRO, VICTOR NICHOLAS, JR.
ALESSANDRO, VICTOR NICHOLAS, JR. (1915–1976). Victor Nicholas Alessandro, Jr., orchestra conductor, was born in Waco, Texas, on November 27, 1915. He was the son of a prominent music teacher and conductor, Victor Alessandro, Sr. The Alessandros moved to Houston in 1919. Victor was introduced to music at an early age and studied horn with his father. He is said to have made his conducting debut at age four, when he led a children's band in a performance of Victor Herbert's "March of the Toys."
In 1932 he entered the Eastman School of Music in Rochester, New York, where he studied composition with Howard Hanson. He afterward attended the Salzburg Mozarteum and the St. Cecilia Academy in Rome, where he studied with Ildebrando Pizzetti. In 1938 he became conductor of the Oklahoma City Symphony Orchestra, an organization that he led from a WPA project to an accomplished ensemble with broad civic support. When Max Reiter, conductor of the San Antonio Symphony Orchestra, died in December 1950, Alessandro took over much of the remaining season; he signed a contract as permanent conductor in April 1951. The next year he also assumed leadership of the San Antonio Symphony Society's Grand Opera Festival. In 1955 he married flutist Ruth Drisko; they had two children.
Alessandro was at his best in works by Peter I. Tchaikovsky and Richard Strauss. He was a sympathetic interpreter of Johannes Brahms and the odd-numbered symphonies of Ludwig van Beethoven. He introduced works by Anton Bruckner, Gustav Mahler, and Alban Berg to San Antonio audiences before they became fashionable elsewhere. He conducted memorable performances of Elektra, Salome, Nabucco, Boris Godunov, Susannah, Die Meistersinger, and the standard operas of Giuseppe Verdi and Giacomo Puccini. In building the San Antonio orchestra he was an exacting, often irascible taskmaster of high musical standards. But he was capable of less formidable moments as well; in February 1962, for instance, he dedicated a performance of Ein Heldenleben to the memory of Bruno Walter.
Alessandro received honorary doctorates from the Eastman School and Southern Methodist University and the Alice M. Ditson Award for service to American music. Recordings of his work include Claude Debussy's Martyrdom of St. Sebastian (1950), light accompaniments (ca. 1953), Antonio Vivaldi and Joaquín Rodrigo guitar concertos, and works by Richard Strauss and John Corigliano (1967–68). With his health declining, Alessandro retired in 1976. He died in San Antonio on November 27, 1976, his sixty-first birthday.
Theodore Albrecht, "101 Years of Symphonic Music in San Antonio," Southwestern Musician/Texas Music Educator, March, November 1975. Baker's Biographical Dictionary of Musicians, 1978. Hope Stoddard, Symphony Conductors of the U.S.A. (New York: Crowell, 1957).
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