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Falla, Manuel de

Falla, Manuel de [ Falla y Matheu, Manuel Maria de] (b Cádiz, 1876; d Alta Gracia de Córdoba, Argentina, 1946). Sp. composer and pianist. He was taught the pf. by his mother and harmony by 2 local musicians, but his ambition was to be a composer and he wrote 2 zarzuelas, the first of which was prod. in 1902. Falla then studied comp. in Madrid for 3 years with Pedrell, who imparted the doctrine that a nation's mus. should be based on folk-song. However, it was to the spirit rather than to the letter of Sp. folk-mus. which Falla turned. In 1905 he won the Madrid Acad. of Fine Arts prize for the best lyrical drama by a Sp. composer with his 2-act opera La Vida Breve (but it was not perf.). In the same year he won the Ortiz y Cusso prize for Sp. pianists. For 2 years he taught the pf. in Madrid and in 1907 went to Paris, where he became the friend of and was greatly influenced by Dukas, Ravel, and Debussy. Ricardo Viñes played the 4 Spanish Pieces for pf. in Paris in 1908, and Falla himself introduced them to London at his début there in 1911. La Vida breve was produced in Nice and Paris in 1913 and in Madrid in 1914. The ballet-pantomine El amor brujo followed in 1915. In 1916 he completed his most ambitious and successful concert work (begun in Paris 1909), the Noches en los jardines de España (Nights in the Gardens of Spain) for pf. and orch. Falla's fame was est., however, in 1919 by Diaghilev's prod. in London of the ballet El sombrero de tres picos (Tricorne, or The Three-Cornered Hat). In 1919 Falla also completed his major work for solo pf., Fantasía Bética, dedicated to Arthur Rubinstein. Bética was the Roman name (Baetica) for Andalusia. After World War I, Falla's style was less colourfully but no less inherently Sp.—it is truer to say that the popular Andalusian folk element was succeeded by a re-creation of the severer style of the early Sp. polyphonic masters. From this period come the chamber opera (based on an incident in Don Quixote) El Retablo de Maese Pedro (Master Peter's Puppet Show), f.p. 1923, and the hpd. conc. (1926) ded. to Wanda Landowska. In 1926 he began work on an enormous ‘scenic cantata’ Atlántida which was left unfinished and was completed by E. Halffter. In 1939, after cond. 4 concerts in Buenos Aires, he settled in Argentina. Prin. comps.:OPERAS: La Vida breve (1904–5); Fuego Fatuo (based on Chopin) (1918–19); El Retablo de Maese Pedro (1919–22).BALLETS: El Amor Brujo (1915); El sombrero de tres picos (1918–19, being rev. version of El corregidory la molinera, 1916–17).ORCH.: Noches en los jardines de España (1909–15), pf., orch.; Suites Nos. 1 and 2 from El sombrero de tres picos (1919).CHAMBER MUSIC: Psyche for mez., fl., harp, vn., va., vc. (1924); conc. for hpd. (or pf.), fl., ob., cl., vn., vc. (1923–6).CHORAL AND VOCAL: Atlántida, scenic cantata, unfinished (completed by Halffter); 3 Melódies, v., pf. (1909); Siete Canciones Populares Españolas (7 Spanish Popular Songs), v., pf. (1914–15); Soneto a Córdoba, v., hp. (1927); Balada de Mallorca (after Chopin), mixed ch. (1933).PIANO: Nocturno (1899); Serenata andaluza (1899); Vals-capricho (1900); Serenata (1901); Cuatro Piezas Españolas (4 Spanish Pieces), (1907–8); Fantasía Bética (1919); Homenajes (Homages) 1. Fanfare on the name of Arbós, 1933, orch. 1938; 2. A Claude Debussy (elegia de la guitarra), also for guitar as Homenaje a Debussy, 1920, orch. 1939; 3. Rapel de la Fanfare, 1941; 4. A Paul Dukas (Spes Vitae), 1935, orch. 1939; 5. Pedrelliana, 1938. Ritual Fire Dance, Dance of Fear, Pantomime, Récit du Pêcheur, arr. by Falla from ballet El Amor Brujo; suite from 7 Spanish Popular Songs, arr. by Falla; Dance of Miller's Wife and Miller's Dance, from El Sombrero de tres picos, arr. Falla.ARRS. BY OTHERS: La Vida breve: 2 Spanish Dances, pf. solo and pf. duet, arr. Samazeuilh; 1st Spanish Dance, vn., pf., arr. Kreisler; 2 Spanish Dances, orch. Chapelier; 7 Spanish Popular Songs, orch. by Halffter; Suite for vn. and pf. arr. P. Kochanski; for vc. and pf., arr. M. Maréchal.

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Manuel de Falla

Manuel de Falla

The Spanish composer Manuel de Falla (1876-1946) infused his compositions with the distinctive idioms of native folk song and dance to create music on nationalistic lines.

Manuel de Falla was born on Nov. 23, 1876, in Cadiz into a family that had a lively interest in music. His mother gave him piano lessons, and from local musicians he had instruction in harmony, counterpoint, and solfeggio. At the age of 20 he enrolled in the Madrid Conservatory and earned the school's highest awards in piano. More important to him, though, since he did not want to be a concert pianist, was his composition study with Felipe Pedrell. Working with that ardent nationalist for 3 years, Falla entered deeply into the study of his country's folk music and made his goal the development of an expressive mode of composition rooted in Spanish culture.

In Siete canciones populares españoles (1914) Falla took folk songs whole and put them in simple but imaginative settings; generally, however, he freely used only certain aspects of folk originals to give a Spanish quality to his compositions. Examples occur in his first important work, the two-act opera La vida breve (1905), which calls up memories of Giacomo Puccini and Richard Wagner but makes its best effects from the employment of two varieties of folk music native to Andalusia: lively flamenco dance rhythms and melodic patterns of the passionate, sometimes melancholic, type of song known as the cante hondo. These two elements also served Falla in his work through 1919, which includes music written in France as well as at home.

Living in Paris from 1907 to 1914, Falla came under the influence of Claude Debussy, whose impressionistic techniques are plainly audible in Quatres pièces espagnoles (1908) for piano and Noches en los jardines de España (1916) for piano and orchestra. The image of Spain shines through, though, in their thematic material and in Falla's evocation of guitar qualities in his treatment of both piano and orchestra. The same may be said of the music that closed what is commonly called his Andalusian period: El amor brujo (1915), a ballet containing the well-known "Ritual Fire Dance;" El sombrero de tres picos (1919), another ballet; and his single large piece for solo piano, Fantasía bética (1919).

The balance of Falla's production is less locally centered, less picturesque, but no less Spanish in impulse. Its high spots are a delightful puppet opera, El retablo de Maese Pedro (1923), based on a scene from Cervantes' Don Quixote, and a rather severe-sounding concerto in neoclassic vein for harpsichord and chamber orchestra (1926). His last work, an enormous cantata entitled La Atlántida, which occupied him from 1928 until his death, was left unfinished.

Falla died on Nov. 14, 1946, in Argentina, where he had moved in 1939 after deciding that he could no longer adapt himself to the Franco regime. Long before then he had been accepted as the foremost creative musician of his time in Spain. Present-day criticism is less favorable, viewing his music as expressively strong but limited in range and technical originality.

Further Reading

Falla's life and place in the panorama of Spanish music are most fully discussed in J. B. Trend, Manuel de Falla and Spanish Music (1929), and Gilbert Chase, The Music of Spain (1941; 2d ed. 1959). Joseph Machlis, Introduction to Contemporary Music (1961), gives a generally sympathetic view of Falla in the light of 20th-century musical composition.

Additional Sources

Demarquez, Suzanne, Manuel de Falla, New York: Da Capo Press, 1983, 1968.

Pahissa, Jaime, Manuel de Falla, his life and works, Westport, Conn.: Hyperion Press, 1979. □

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Falla, Manuel de

Manuel de Falla (mänwĕl´ dā fä´lyä), 1876–1946, Spanish composer; pupil of Felipe Pedrell. In Paris from 1907 to 1914, he met Debussy, Dukas, and Ravel, and was to some extent influenced by their impressionism. His music, however, remained distinctively Spanish, rooted both in Andalusian folk music and the classical tradition of Spain. Falla was an authority on flamenco music and made use of it in his compositions, keeping the vitality of flamenco but imposing upon it rigorous musical structure. Notable among his compositions are an opera, La vida breve [life is short] (1913); a suite for piano and orchestra, Noches en los jardines de España [nights in the gardens of Spain] (1916); and the celebrated ballets El Amor Brujo [wedded by witchcraft] (1915) and El sombrero de tres picos [the three-cornered hat] (1917). From 1921 to 1939 Falla lived in Granada, organizing festivals of native folk songs and touring Europe to conduct his own works. He moved to Argentina in 1939, where he directed the first performance of his guitar solo, Homenaje (1920); later orchestrated as Homenajes. His ambitious choral work La Atlántida occupied his later years; it was finished after his death by Ernesto Halffter and presented in Madrid in 1961.

See G. Chase, The Music of Spain (1960) and S. Demarquez, Manuel de Falla (tr. 1968).

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Falla, Manuel de

Falla, Manuel de (1876–1946) Spanish composer. He developed a Spanish style by using folksongs combined with rich modern harmonies. Among his works are the opera La Vida Breve (1905), Nights in the Gardens of Spain (1916) for piano and orchestra, and the music for the ballets Love the Magician (1915) and The Three-Cornered Hat (1919).

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