Monday, November 23, 8876

Manuel de Falla (1876-1946) - La Vida Breva

Manuel de Falla (1876-1946)

La Vida Breva (1905)

The Three-Cornered Hat (1919)

Manuel de Falla y Matheu's (November 23, 1876, Cadiz, Spain - November 14, 1946) earliest teacher in music was his mother; at the age of 9 he was introduced to his first piano professor.

From the late 1890's he studied music in Madrid, piano with José Tragó and composition with Felipe Pedrell. In 1899 by unanimous vote he was awarded the first prize at the piano competition at his school of music, and around that year he started to use de with his first surname, making de Falla the name he became known as from that time on.

It was from Felipe Pedrell, during Madrid period, that de Falla became interested in native Spanish music, particularly Andalusian flamenco (specifically cante jondo), the influence of which can be strongly felt in many of his works. Among his early pieces are a number of zarzuelas, but his first important work was the one-act opera La vida breve (Life is Short, or The Brief Life, written in 1905, though revised before its premiere in 1913).

De Falla spent the years 1907 to 1914 in Paris, where he met a number of composers who had an influence on his style, including the impressionists Maurice Ravel, Claude Debussy and Paul Dukas. He wrote little more music, however, until his return to Madrid at the beginning of World War I. While at no stage was he a prolific composer, it was then that he entered into his mature creative period.

In Madrid he composed several of his best known pieces, including:

The nocturne for piano and orchestra Noches en los jardines de España (Nights in the Gardens of Spain, 1916)

The ballet El amor brujo (Love the Magician, 1915) which includes the much excerpted and arranged Ritual Fire Dance

The ballet El corregidor y la molinera (The Magistrate and the Miller's Wife) which, after revision, became El sombrero de tres picos (The Three-Cornered Hat, 1917) and was produced by Serge Diaghilev with set design by Pablo Picasso.

From 1921 to 1939 Manuel de Falla lived in Granada, where he wrote the puppet opera El retablo de maese Pedro (Master Peter's Puppet Show, 1923) and a concerto for harpsichord and chamber ensemble (1926). In these works, the Spanish folk influence is somewhat less apparent than a kind of Stravinskian neo-classicism.

Also in Granada, de Falla began work on the large-scale orchestral cantata Atlàntida (Atlantis) based on the Catalan text by Jacint Verdaguer, which he considered to be the most important of all his works. Verdaguer's text gives a mythological account of how the submersion of Atlantis created the Atlantic ocean, thus separating Spain and Latin America, and how later the Spanish discovery of America reunited what had always belonged together. De Falla continued work on the cantata after moving to Argentina in 1939. The orchestration of the piece was completed posthumously by Ernesto Halffter.

De Falla tried but failed to prevent the murder of his close friend

the poet Federico García Lorca in 1936.

Following Francisco Franco's victory in the Spanish Civil War, de Falla left Spain for Argentina.


Francisco Paulino Hermenegildo Teódulo Franco y Bahamonde (El Ferrol, December 4, 1892 - November 20, 1975 in Madrid), commonly known as Francisco Franco or Francisco Franco y Bahamonde was dictator of Spain from October 1936, as de facto regent of the nominally restored Kingdom of Spain from 1947 until his death in 1975. His rule was known for a focus on Spanish nationalism, imperial aspirations, centralism and traditional values.

Franco led a notable military career and reached the rank of General. He fought in Morocco and suppressed a strike in 1934 to defend the Republican government's stability. In February 1936, the left-wing Popular Front won the general election and formed a government. A period of severe instability and disarray followed the election, with escalating violence between left and right wing supporters. Anti-clerical violence against the Church by leftist militants further raised tensions. After the assassination of a major opposition figure, José Calvo Sotelo, by a commando unit of the Assault Guards in July 1936, Franco participated in a coup d'etat against the elected Popular Front government. The coup failed and evolved into the Spanish Civil War during which he emerged as the leader of the Nationalists against the Popular Front. After winning the civil war, he dissolved the Spanish Parliament, establishing an authoritarian regime that lasted until 1978, when a new constitution was drafted. During the Second World War, Franco maintained a policy of neutrality, although he did assist Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy on a small scale against the Soviet Union, most famously by sending troops (known as the Blue Division) to aid Nazi Germany in fighting the Soviet Union. Before the invasion of the Soviet Union by the German Army, Franco and Hitler met in Hendaye on October 23, 1940.

During the Cold War, the United States established a diplomatic alliance with Franco, due to his strong anti-Communist policy. American President Richard Nixon toasted Franco, and, after Franco's death, stated: "General Franco was a loyal friend and ally of the United States."

After his death Spain began a transition to democracy.


Manuel de Falla died in Alta Gracia, in the Argentine province of Córdoba. In 1947 his remains were brought back to Spain and entombed in the cathedral at Cádiz. One of the lasting honors to his memory is the Manuel de Falla Chair of Music in the Faculty of Philosophy and Letters at Complutense University of Madrid. He never married and had no children.

[8879 Respighi / 8876 Falla / 8875 Ravel]