Cármelo de los Santos never performs the samba and he doesn’t play futebol.
“I was a weird Brazilian,” he said.
After a blind audition, the New Mexico Philharmonic has chosen the violinist as its new concertmaster. De los Santos will replace retired concertmaster Krzysztof Zimowski.
De los Santos came to Albuquerque to teach violin at the University of New Mexico in 2004. He earned his master’s degree from the Manhattan School of Music and his doctorate from the University of Georgia. With an abundant solo career, he is now an associate professor of violin. He has played with more than 40 orchestras, primarily in South America and Brazil, as well as with Santa Fe Pro Musica, the Santa Fe Symphony and the old New Mexico Symphony. He made his New York debut at Carnegie Hall in 2002.
On Sunday, Sept. 25, de los Santos will give his first concert with the New Mexico Philharmonic at Immanuel Presbyterian Church, playing the Saint-Saëns Violin Concerto No. 3. The orchestra also will perform Ravel’s “Le Tombeau de Couperin” and Mozart’s “Haffner” Symphony.
Growing up in Porto Alegre in southern Brazil, the violinist was enveloped by music. He listened to the great violinist Jascha Heifetz on his grandfather’s stereo; his mother taught music theory. He began singing lessons at “4 or 5” and picked up the violin at 10 with a private tutor learning the Suzuki Method.
“I think it’s because of the beauty of sound,” he said of his choice of instrument. “It was almost haunting.”
He was invited to audition for the Philharmonic in May. He first played the Saint-Saëns piece at 15.
“It’s very romantic,” he said. “It brings me back to my teenage years. It’s about half an hour. It will keep me busy.”
De los Santos plays a highly-prized 1791 Angelo Soliani violin.