Fred Elizalde

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Fred Elizalde
Birth nameFederico Díaz Elizalde
Born(1907-12-12)December 12, 1907
Manila, Philippine Islands
DiedJanuary 16, 1979(1979-01-16) (aged 71)
Manila, Philippines
GenresClassical, jazz, dance band
Occupation(s)Musician, composer, conductor, bandleader
Years active1926–1974

Federico "Fred" Díaz Elizalde (December 12, 1907 – January 16, 1979)[1] was a Spanish Filipino classical and jazz pianist, composer, conductor, and bandleader, influential in the British dance band era.


Elizalde was born in Manila, Philippines, to José Joaquín Elizalde and Carmen Díaz y Moreau.[2][3] He was a brother of diplomat Joaquín ("Mike"), Manuel ("Manolo"), Juan Miguel, Ángel and Carmenchu Elizalde.

At age seven[4] he entered the Madrid Royal Conservatory, winning the first prize in piano at age 14.[4] He then studied at St. Joseph's College, London and went to study law at Stanford University in the 1920s. His musical interests prevailed and he left the university. He took composition lessons under Ernst Bloch at Stanford, and gave up law temporarily for music, leaving the school in 1926. He then embarked on a career as a jazz bandleader, leading the Stanford University Band at the Biltmore Hotel in Los Angeles, while he studied composition. He recorded with the Cinderella Roof Orchestra in 1926, then returned to England, where he entered Cambridge University in the autumn as a law student.[5] This lasted only a year; soon after reaching England, Elizalde formed a new band, the Quinquaginta Band,[4] which became successful and influential on the development of British jazz music in the late 1920s.

Elizalde criticized British dance music for its Viennese qualities, and sought to bring more American principles of rhythm to the British scene. He recorded with his band in 1927 under several ensemble names for Brunswick and Decca, including the Cambridge Undergraduates. In his run at the Savoy Hotel in London, his band featured many of the best players in early British jazz, including Norman Payne, Jack Jackson, and Harry Hayes, as well as Americans such as Chelsea Quealey, Bobby Davis, Fud Livingston, Adrian Rollini, and Arthur Rollini.[5] In December 1928, he released a short film Christmas Party, filmed in the DeForest Phonofilm sound-on-film process.

The band was voted best popular dance orchestra in Melody Maker in 1928, but older guests at the Savoy were offended by his music, and controversial broadcasts over the BBC did not help his case.[5] In July 1929, his contract expired and was not renewed."[6] In the same period, Elizalde composed works which melded jazz and European concert music elements, including "The Heart of a Nigger"[5] (1927; produced in 1928 by Sergei Diaghilev)[4] and "Bataclan" (1929).

In 1928, he visited Germany and became closely associated with Siegfried Wagner.[4] He also conducted orchestras in Germany, Belgium and the Netherlands. In 1928, he wrote the music for Pola Negri's final silent film, The Way of Lost Souls (1929; aka The Woman He Scorned).[7][8][9]

Elizalde broke up his band in 1929,[5] after a poorly received tour in Scotland and the onset of the Great Depression, which necessitated the return home of many of his American sidemen. He led a new group at the Duchess Theater in London in 1930,[5] but later that year returned to Manila to accept a position as conductor of the Manila Symphony Orchestra. By now he had received his parents' permission to devote himself entirely to music (he was still only 23).[4] He conducted in the 1930s in Biarritz, Paris, and Madrid, and recorded for the last time in 1933 on a brief return trip to Britain. His symphonic poems Jota, Spiritual and Moods were written in these years.[4] In 1931-33 he was in Paris, where he was closely associated with Maurice Ravel and Darius Milhaud, and conducted the first performances of some of Milhaud's works.[4] In 1932 he composed some songs for Conchita Supervía and incidental music for La pajara pinta by Rafael Alberti.[4]

While in Spain, Elizalde studied under and spent much time with Manuel de Falla, who always regarded him as one of his best interpreters.[4] On one occasion he conducted Falla's Harpsichord Concerto with the composer at the keyboard.[4] He also set to music Titeres de Cachiporra and Don Perlimplin by Federico García Lorca, with whom he was also closely associated.[4] In 1935 he was named as Spanish delegate to the Maggio Musicale Fiorentino.[4] In 1936 he conducted his Sinfonia Concertante for piano and orchestra, with Leopoldo Querol as soloist.

In 1936, he returned from France to enroll in the Requeti troops of Navarre, a Basque regiment, and fought under Francisco Franco during the Spanish Civil War until 1939. He was wounded and decorated during the war. He first emigrated to Manila then moved to France, where he lived under confinement in a house near Bayonne under the German occupation.

During this time he composed extensively, his works including:

In 1948, he returned once more to Manila, where he again conducted the Manila Symphony Orchestra, founded the Manila Little Symphony Orchestra, and became president of the Manila Broadcasting Company. He did some conducting in Japan, and led the London Symphony Orchestra at the Royal Festival Hall during the Festival of Britain in 1951,[4] but otherwise did little work outside the Philippines through until his 1974 retirement.

He and Bob Stewart had a music show on Philippine television, The Maestro and Uncle Bob (GMA, 1978–1979).

Outside of music, he was a sharpshooter who won gold medals as captain of the Philippines shooting team in the 1954 Asiad.


  1. ^ "Fred Elizalde". Retrieved August 25, 2021.
  2. ^ De Borja, Marciano R. (April 11, 2005). Basques in the Philippines. ISBN 9780874175905.
  3. ^ Peter Tanner, Decca Records, DDV5011/12
  4. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q Grove's Dictionary of Music and Musicians, 5th edition, 1954, Vol. II, p. 929
  5. ^ a b c d e f Colin Larkin, ed. (1992). The Guinness Encyclopedia of Popular Music (First ed.). Guinness Publishing. pp. 782/3. ISBN 0-85112-939-0.
  6. ^ Michael Brooks, liner notes to Columbia C3K 52862, Swing Time! The Fabulous Big Band Era 1925-1955.
  7. ^ "The Way of Lost Souls (1929)". Retrieved August 25, 2021.
  8. ^ "Jabw_vintage/Report on elizalde". Archived from the original on September 27, 2011. Retrieved April 3, 2011.
  9. ^ "Jabw_vintage/Meet elizalde". Archived from the original on January 13, 2010. Retrieved April 3, 2011.
  10. ^ "Pristine Classical" (PDF). Retrieved August 25, 2021.
  11. ^ "Democracy - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia". Archived from the original on July 21, 2012. Retrieved April 3, 2011.

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