He remained there for six years, and in 1938 was named the official pianist of the Havana Philharmonic. In 1939, he performed duo piano recitals with Ernesto Lecuona. In 1940, he migrated to the United States, having received a scholarship to the Juilliard School of Music in New York City. There, he studied under Rosina Lhevinne. He also performed and orchestrated with the 2nd Army Military Band during World War II. After the war, his childhood friend Desi Arnaz asked Rizo to join him as the pianist and orchestrator for his band, the Desi Arnaz Orchestra.
He toured the U.S. with the band until 1950. When Arnaz started production of I Love Lucy, he once again turned to Rizo, hiring him to be the pianist and orchestrator for the show between 1951 and 1957. Rizo also made several on-camera appearances on the show throughout its run on television.
After the I Love Lucy show ended, he remained with CBS and was the pianist-arranger for the “Bob Hope Radio Show.” While in Los Angeles, he attended UCLA and studied under Stravinsky and Mario Castelnuovo-Tedesco. He composed motion picture music for Columbia, Paramount and MGM Studios. He continued his concert career in 1960, playing the music of Lecuona and other Cubans. In the early 1970s, Rizo worked as the musical director for the Royal Viking Sea cruise ship. Throughout his career, he arranged for hundreds of top artists: Carmen Miranda, Danny Kaye, Xavier Cugat, Yma Sumac, and Paquito D’Rivera, among many others.
Some of his most memorable piano and orchestral compositions include “Suite Campesina,” “Ñañigo,” “Danzas Cubanas,” “Jose Marti-Sinfonia Cubana,” “Broadway Concerto,” “Suite of the Americas,” “Suite Española,” and “Visions of New York.” In the early 1980s, he founded the non-profit organization “The Marco Rizo Latin American Music Project” (SAMPI), which aimed to spread appreciation for Latin music and culture to students in universities, colleges, high schools, and public schools. In 1989, he won the Silver Medal of the French Academy of the Arts, Sciences and Letters. He died of a heart attack in 1998 at St. Luke’s-Roosevelt Hospital Center. His sister, Vilma Rizo, donated many of his papers, files, and compositions to the Music Division at the New York Public Library for the Performing Arts.
Among the various items in the collection is an unpublished biography that Rizo wrote of his longtime friend Desi Arnaz entitled “The Desi I Knew” (1991). Read more on Last.fm. User-contributed text is available under the Creative Commons By-SA License; additional terms may apply..
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