© 2015 by Sergio Rangel.

Manuel de Falla

Manuel de Falla was born in Cadiz in 1876 and had his early musical training and education there, deciding at the age of seventeen to embark on a career as a composer. He studied at the Madrid Conservatory and from the turn of the century earned a living from the composition of zarzuelas, most of which have not survived. Study with Pedrell, an important figure in the creation of Spanish musical nationalism in an acceptable international musical language, was followed by a seminal period of nearly seven years in Paris, during which he had encouragement from Paul Dukas, as well as from Debussy, Ravel and the Spanish composer Albeniz. Spain had exercised a musical fascination over French composers, from saint-saens and Bizet to Debussy and Ravel and now Falla could exert his own Spanish influence over contemporary French composers with whom he consorted. His reputation was definitively established with the staging of the opera La vida breve in Nice in 1913 and a collaboration with Dyagilev that led to the staging in London in 1919 of El sombrero de tres picas (The Three-Cornered Hat) by the Ballets russes, with decor by Picasso and choreography by Massine.


After his return to Spain in 1914, with the outbreak of war, Falla continued his study of the traditional cante jondo of Andalucia. h11915 he presented his gitaneria, a gypsy piece, in Madrid, followed the next year by his evocative work for piano and orchestra Noches en las jardines de España (Nights in the Gardens of Spain). Settling in Granada, the inspiration for the Fantasia betica, commissioned by Rubinstein, he fulfilled a commission from Princess Edmond de Polignac (née Winnie Singer) for the small-scale theatre piece, El retablo de Maese Pedro, a profoundly Spanish work, based on Cervantes, and composed the neo-classical summary of his work of synthesis of the national and international, the Concierto para clavicembalo.


Much of his later life was spent in work on Atlantida, based on a text derived from the Catalan of Jacinto V erdaguer .This remained unfinished at the time of FaIla's death in Argentina in 1946. He had spent the years of the Civil War in Granada. His deeply Catholic sympathies led him to deplore the appalling excesses of the Republicans, the burning of churches and the persecution of the clergy, as much as he deplored and lamented the murder of his friend Federico Garcia Lorca, and his move to Argentina came about by the accident of an invitation in 1939 to present concerts in Buenos Aires, rather than for any political motives. War-time difficulties and dangers of travel, even in neutral ships, will have played a part in keeping him abroad. After a funeral service in the Cathedral of the Argentinian Cordoba, his body was brought back to Spain, to be interred with due honour in Cadiz Cathedral.