Born in New York City in 1953, José Luis Greco is the son of the Spanish dancers José Greco and Nila Amparo, and nephew of the Metropolitan Opera diva Norina Greco. As a boy, he studied piano and guitar and performed as an actor (guest star in the TV series Flipper; on Broadway with Henry Fonda and Olivia de Havilland) and dancer (title role in New York City Ballet/Balanchine’s Nutcracker; 10 years of touring with the José Greco Ballet). Adolescence found him playing rock and as a young man he moved on to jazz. He got a B.F.A. in music from City College of New York, where he studied with Ed Summerlin and John Lewis of the Modern Jazz Quartet, and a Master’s and Doctorate (ABD) in composition at Columbia University, studying with Mario Davidovsky, Jack Beeson, Chou Wen-chung and George Edwards. Before his move to Amsterdam (Netherlands), he had transcribed and orchestrated Ravi Shankar’s Second Concerto for Sitar and Orchestra, Raga-Mala, premiered by the NY Philharmonic under the direction of Zubin Mehta, and composed and conducted the production of his first opera, Aria da Capo.
Greco first achieved recognition in the 1980s as composer, performer and co-founder of Cloud Chamber, an Amsterdam-based interdisciplinary company specializing in site-specific projects, and supported by the Dutch Ministry of Culture for 10 consecutive years. The company performed throughout Europe, including the Gulbenkian Foundation (Portugal), Documenta 8 (Germany), Eurodance Festival (France) and the Holland Festival, and at Lincoln Center in the U.S.
Netherlands commissions (partial list): from the Fonds voor de Scheppende Toonkunst for Orkest De Volharding, the Mondriaan String Quartet and the Netherlands Wind Ensemble, these last two premiered in Amsterdam’s Concertgebouw; from the Dutch Ministry of Culture for his second opera Cuentos de la Alhambra, premiered in Haarlem and Amsterdam; from the SNK Association of Dutch Choruses, the Rembrandt Trio, Djazzex Modern Dance Company, the Chorus of the University of Amsterdam, the Ricciotti Ensemble and the Mondriaan Quartet.
Since 1994, Greco lives in Madrid, Spain. His concert works have been interpreted by the Spanish National Orchestra and Chorus, the National Youth Orchestra of Spain, the Symphony Orchestra of the Spanish Radio and Television, the Gran Canaria Philharmonic, the Seville Symphony Orchestra, the Basque Symphony Orchestra, the Verum Symphony Orchestra and the Madrid Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Sergiu Comissiona, Adrian Leaper, Andrés Salado, Miguel Romea and Enrique García Asensio, among others. His solo, chamber and choral works have been performed by some of Spain’s most distinguished musicians, and have been presented in the most prestigious series, festivals and auditoriums.
Works for dance include collaborations with the Ballet Nacional de España, the Compañía Nacional de Danza, the Antonio Márquez Company, the inauguration gala of the Itálica Festival of Seville and the award-winning dance theater production Estado Hormonal.
The Embassy of Spain in Washington DC organized two North American tours and a concert in the Phillips Collection’s Leading European Composers series of all-Greco programs. The Embassy of Spain in Prague sponsored two world premieres performed by pianist Duncan Gifford, the Czech National Symphony under the direction of Adrian Leaper, and mezzo-soprano Magdalena Llamas and the Zemlinsky String Quartet.
Spanish commissions (partial list): from the Centro Nacional de Difusión Musical, the Centro para la Difusión de la Música Contemporánea, the Spanish Ministry of Culture, the Consejería de Cultura de la Comunidad de Madrid, the Week of Sacred Music Festival of Cuenca, and from individual musicians and patrons.
U.S. commissions: Downtown Music Productions, Franklin & Marshall College and The Queen’s Chamber Band.
Greco has also composed for young audiences and musicians. For young audiences: two orchestral works, three works of music theater, the orchestration for voices and orchestra of traditional Basque children’s songs, and the theme for El Conciertazo, Spanish National Television’s award-winning Classical music show. For young musicians: a triptych for chamber orchestra based on Lewis Carroll’s Alice and a work for children’s choir and instrumental ensemble on poems by Robert Louis Stevenson.
His discography comprises the following labels: Naxos (orchestral and chamber works), ASV (orchestral), Channel Crossings (chamber music), Albany (chamber music), Verso (chamber music), Columna Música (music for dance), Autor (music for dance), RTVE (orchestra), ELKAR (orchestration), Warner Classics (orchestration).
He is a member of the Royal Spanish American Academy of Science, Arts and Letters (Cádiz, Spain)