Born in Mexico City of Polish and Mexican descent, Enrique Bátiz explains why his name is accented on the first syllable: "It's a Basque name...from the region of the separatists. I'm still a very independent person!" As for his musical heritage, Bátiz began as a pianist and turned to the podium fairly late by current standards. Yet since the mid-'80s, Bátiz has become one of Latin America's most widely known conductors.
Bátiz began his piano studies with his mother before his feet could even reach the pedals, and gave his first public performance at age five. After obtaining his bachelor's degree from Mexico University in 1959, he furthered his education at Southern Methodist University in Dallas and, from 1963 to 1966, the Juilliard School of Music, where he studied piano with Adele Marcus and conducting with Jorge Mester. Bátiz traveled to the Warsaw Conservatory for four years of post-graduate work, including conducting tutelage from Witold Rowicki. During his twenties, Bátiz made concert tours and radio recordings as a pianist in Mexico, Poland, and Salzburg. Eventually, though, he realized that his true vocation was as a conductor.
In 1971, at age 29, Bátiz founded the Mexican State Symphony Orchestra, of which he remained principal conductor until the end of 1982, renewing his relationship with the group in 1990. Shortly after he first secured this appointment, he set about a serious technical study of conducting with Leon Barzin. Early in 1983, Bátiz was named music director and principal conductor of the Mexico City Philharmonic, where he remained until 1989. He landed guest appearances in Europe with the Czech Philharmonic and the continent's best second-tier orchestras (Dresden, Leipzig, and the like). Bátiz became especially active in England, leading the London Symphony, London Philharmonic, Royal Philharmonic, and Royal Liverpool Philharmonic. By 1984, Bátiz had secured the post of principal guest conductor with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra.
Already, EMI had engaged Bátiz to conduct a variety of London and Mexican orchestras in what would become four well-packed CDs devoted to the works of Joaquín Rodrigo. The conductor's next significant project for EMI was Heitor Villa-Lobos' Bachianas Brasileiras, the series' third integral recording and the first to be easily available in Europe since the composer's own mono EMI version. Bátiz also devoted three ASV CDs to the orchestral music of Georges Bizet. Yet he did proselytize for the music of his own part of the world.
Bátiz once rhapsodized about the Hispanic embrace of the primitive side of life, so it's hardly surprising that "primitive" strong rhythms and bright colors dominated the interpretations of Mexican music he set to disc for ASV through the early '90s. In these recordings, one could correctly guess that Bátiz was once a child prodigy pianist who idolized Vladimir Horowitz, for Bátiz adapts Horowitz's hard brilliance to the orchestra. The tendency may be inherent to this conductor's personality. Some musicians in the Mexico City Philharmonic complained that Bátiz verbally abused them in rehearsal. And like other temperamental conductors, Bátiz channeled his aggression into a performance style that favored incisive attacks, firm accents, and fleet tempos. This is not to imply that Bátiz is always a speed demon; his very broad version of the Brahms Symphony No. 2 recorded for RCA shows an entirely different side of the conductor. Bátiz is far less concerned with setting down a performance for the ages than with documenting a performance of the moment, something fluid and evolving, caught in an aural snapshot.