Biography of Manuel de Falla y Mateu (1876-1946)

Manuel de Falla.

Spanish composer born in Cádiz on November 23, 1876 and died in Alta Gracia (Argentina) on November 14, 1946.

He started in music with his mother and at the age of nine began taking Eloísa Galluzzo lessons in his hometown. Two years later he began his studies of harmony and composition with Alejandro Odero, who had studied at Paris, and later with Enrique Broca. Concerts and the representations of the city opera, and especially works by Grieg and Gounod, served as impulse to devote himself to composition. He gave several concerts in Cadiz and at the end of the Decade of the years ninety moved to Madrid, where he studied piano with José Tragó at the Conservatory. The recipient limit in 1899 and, given their precarious economic situation, in the first years of the twentieth century tried his luck with the zarzuela. It reached only a moderate success with the loves of the Ines, represented a score of times, even though he wrote others as the cross of Malta (1903) or prisoner of war (1903) in collaboration with Amadeu Vives.

He moved to Madrid and there he came into contact with Felipe Pedrell, he was a student. Pedrell initiated him in the study of Spanish and foreign folk music, as well as in the of Spanish early music of the works by polyphonists, and in the study of musical forms and orchestration. The knowledge of the book of Louis Lucas L'acoustique nouvelle (1854) was also essential for their training, because it made him start his own harmonic way. On those dates was also his interest in music of the French harpsichordists and work for harpsichord of Domenico Scarlatti. During his stay in Madrid he also managed to contact other composers such as Conrado del Campo and Joaquín Turina. In 1903 he won a prize with Allegro de concert, and two years later the Academy of fine arts awarded him for his opera brief life, which was not released in that time.

In 1907 he moved to Paris, where he came into contact with musicians such as Albeniz, Debussy and Paul Dukas, who helped to release the brief life with great success. Thanks to the pianist Ricardo Viñes, failure came into contact with the Group of the "Apaches", a circle that formed part of Ravel and Charles Koechlin, among others, and became friends with the guitarists Miguel Llobet and Ángel Barrios and cellist Pablo Casals. Since the French capital was one of the most important musical centers of Europe, the young Manuel de Falla could learn works by Mussorgski or Richard Strauss who had not previously heard.

To alleviate their hardship, Albéniz gave him obtaining a monetary help from the King of Spain, which caused him to devote itself to the composition. Thanks test, fault devoted to Albéniz its four Spanish pieces, presented in 1909 in Paris. That same year, the Publisher Durand et Fils published and, in 1913, failure signed a publication with the reputed editor Max Eschig to bring to light the rest of his works.

On April 1, 1913 came the premiere of La vida breve in Nice, and later the work was represented at the Opera-Comique in Paris, which provided him with fame on the international circuit. At the beginning of the first world war he was forced to return to Madrid, where in 1915 debuted the seven popular songs and the Witcher love, and soon after made trips to Granada and Barcelona. At that time he came into contact with the playwrights Gregorio Martínez Sierra and his wife María of the O Lejárraga, who collaborated on works like the Witcher love, will-o'-the-WISP or three-cornered hat and began its collaboration with the national society of music, which released the musical works of art in Spain. In 1919 Arthur Rubinstein commissioned the Fantasia Baetica and Diaghilev, at the head of the Ballets Russes, presented in London the three-cornered hat. Failure was closely linked to the company, which settled some time in Spain during the first world war, and that made him come into contact with Stravinsky, he deeply admired.

In 1920 he decided to move his residence to Granada, where he resided his friend Ángel Barrios, where he came into contact the painter Manuel Ángeles Ortiz and with the poet Federico García Lorca, who belonged to the generation of 27. By his initiative and Lorca was created in 1922 the first competition of Cante Jondo, which had great impact in different countries. (See sing).

During this time became more marked the popular and historical essence of Spanish music in his work. El retablo de Maese Pedro composed in 1923, based on a fragment of Don Quixote, and, after the visit of the harpsichordist Wanda Landowska to Granada, wrote the Concerto for harpsichord and five instruments (1926). The creation of a new instrumental group in Granada called Orquesta Bética led him to write new works and to make arrangements of scores as Prélude à l´apres-midi d´un faune of Debussy. In addition, continued with their essay work writing texts about the work of composers like his teacher Pedrell. From 1925 began their health problems, although he did not travel abroad to listen various musical trends that were developing in Europe. Failure was also an important work to give the international society of contemporary music (iSCM) Spanish section in the cities of Madrid and Barcelona.

In 1931, and after the proclamation of the Republic, fault participated in the newly constituted National Board of music and theatre, even though it would soon stop supporting the new regime because of his religious convictions. By that time he had already started the composition of Atlantis, based on texts by Jacint Verdaguer , where he worked for nearly two decades. To leave it unfinished, was his disciple, Ernesto Halffter , who finished years later.

In 1939, just finish the Spanish Civil War, failure emigrated to Argentina with his sister Carmen. In November of that same year he premiered the suite tributes at the Teatro Colon in Buenos Aires. Carlos was installed in the city of Villa and continued their musical activities such as the direction of concerts for a radio station Buenos Aires and the arrangement of Pedrell and Tomás Luis de Victoria works for various concerts. There, he rubbed shoulders with celebrities like the actress Margarita Xirgu, the composer Carlos Guastavino or the poet Rafael Alberti.

His health worsened and therefore rejected the Spanish Government invitations to return to Spain. He died in Alta Gracia, near the Argentine city of Cordoba, in 1946, and his body is now buried in the Cathedral of Cadiz.


Through his work, Falla managed to free Spanish music from his hometown character and caused her to enter through the front door in the whole of the European music of the time. His great achievement was the creation of a universal music rooted both in music and in the popular.

The own fault considered that his compositional career had given beginning in 1904 with the brief life work, since his previous scores are too influenced by composers such as Chopin, or are only outlines of pieces of Chamber music. In any case, the Granada composer liked to quote musically in his works fragments of the composers who admired. Thus, tricorn Hat appears in a parody of the Fifth Symphony of Beethoven, and a short phrase of the Wagnerian Tristan (see Richard Wagner) can be heard at nights in the gardens of Spain.

Failure showed a special interest in the piano, an instrument for which wrote the part soloist's nights in the gardens of Spain, work with Impressionist elements, and the Fantasia Baetica, among others. This last work clearly falls within the nationalist music, it uses elements of Andalusian music and flamenco. In addition, it uses the piano almost as a percussion instrument as they do many European composers of his generation. Their nationalist research findings are also present in Siete canciones populares Españolas and the Witcher love.

He also devoted his attention to the guitar, perhaps influenced by his friendship with guitarist Ángel Barrios. For this instrument wrote his tribute pour le tombeau de Claude Debussy, using a language of echoes Andalusian and impressionistic. His admiration for Debussy can be seen in works like psyché for soprano and five instruments, in which resorts to the use of chords and modal scales similar to them that they heard in the music of the French master.

His most ambitious work, the scenic cantata Atlàntida, remained unfinished. The play deals with the theme of the conquest of America with certain religious and mystical references. The scenery would be in charge of the painter Josep Maria Sert and the work was going to be represented in enclaves such as the monastery of Poblet, among others. Atlantis baby Greek and Byzantine sources of the music as well as the Baroque composers (Bach, Handel), and contemporaries such as Ravel and Stravinsky.

Links on the Internet; the Manuel de Falla Ediciones editorial page. It contains a catalogue of works of the composer as well as mp3 files.; page House Museum and cultural centre Auditorium Manuel de Falla in Granada.

Selected discography

El Amor brujo. Performers: New Philharmonia Orchestra. Director: Rafael Frühbeck de Burgos. DECCA 448 601-2. Nights in the gardens of Spain. Performers: Alicia de Larrocha (piano), London Philharmonic Orchestra. Director: Rafael Frühbeck de Buergos. 410 DECCA 289-2. Siete canciones populares Españolas. Performers: Manuel Barrueco (guitar). EMI CLASSICS 569850 2. Three peaks Hat(+ El Amor Brujo).Cast: Grace Bumbry, Berlin Radio Symphony Orchestra. Director: Lorin Maazel. DEUTSCHE GRAMMOPHON 447 414-2. La Vida breve. Performers: Alicia Nafe, Teresa Berganza, José Carreras, Josep Pons, Manuel Cid, Ambrosian Opera Chorus, London Symphony Orchestra. Director: Luis-Antonio García Navarro. DEUTSCHE GRAMMOPHON 435 851-2.


FAILS, M. of. Writings on music and musicians. Introduction and notes, Federico Sopeña Madrid, Espasa-Calpe, 1988.

GALLEGO, A. Manuel de Falla and the Witcher love. Madrid, Alianza, 1990.

OROZCO, M. Granada and Manuel de Falla. Granada, Caja General de Ahorros Granada, Ayuntamiento de Granada, 1996.

ROMERO FERRER, a. (ed.) Manuel de Falla and its surroundings (1946-1996). Cadiz, service of publications of the University of Cádiz, Municipal Foundation of culture of the city of Cádiz, 1997.