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Manuel de Falla y Matheu (November 23, 1876 â€“ November 14, 1946) was a Spanish composer of classical music.



Manuel de Falla was born in Cádiz. His early teacher in music was his mother; at the age of 9 he was introduced to his first piano professor. Little is known of that period of his life, but his relationship with his teacher was likely conflicted. From the late 1890s 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 Manuel de Falla the name he became known as from that time on. When only the surname is used, however, the de is omitted.

It was from Pedrell, during the Madrid period, that 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).

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:

Composer Manuel de Falla as depicted on a former currency note of Spain

From 1921 to 1939 Manuel de Falla lived in Granada, where he organized the Concurso de Cante Jondo in 1922. In Granada 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). The puppet opera marked the first time the harpsichord had entered the modern orchestra; and the concerto was the first for harpsichord written in the 20th Century. Both of these works were written with Wanda Landowska in mind. In these works, the Spanish folk influence is somewhat less apparent than a kind of Stravinskian neoclassicism.

Also in Granada, Falla began work on the large-scale orchestral cantata AtlĂ ntida (Atlantis), based on the Catalan text L'AtlĂ ntida by Jacint Verdaguer. Falla considered AtlĂ ntida 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. Falla continued work on the cantata after moving to Argentina in 1939, following Francisco Franco's victory in the Spanish Civil War. The orchestration of the piece remained incomplete at his death and was completed posthumously by Ernesto Halffter.

Falla tried but failed to prevent the murder of his close friend, the poet Federico GarcĂ­a Lorca in 1936.

Manuel de Falla never married and had no children. He 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. His image appeared on Spanish currency notes for some years.


See List of compositions by Manuel de Falla.


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  • Manuel de Falla and the Spanish Musical Renaissance by Burnett James (Gollancz, London, 1979)
  • Manuel de Falla : a bibliography and research guide by Andrew Budwig with Preface by Gilbert Chase (Garland Publishers, 1986)
  • Manuel de Falla by Nancy Lee Harper (Greenwood Publishing Group, 1998)
  • Manuel De Falla and Modernism in Spain by Carol A Hess (University of Chicago Press, 2001)
  • Falla by Manuel Orozco Diaz (Barcelona: Salvat 1985)

See also

External links


Simple English

Manuel de Falla (born Cádiz, Spain, 23 November 1876; died Alta Gracia, Argentina, 14 November 1946 was a Spanish composer. Falla (pronounce: “FA-ya”), together with Albéniz and Granados, helped to make Spanish music important again after three centuries during which there had been no important Spanish composers.



Early years

Falla had his first music lessons in Cádiz. At first he did not know whether he wanted to take music or literature as a career. When he was ten he started to go to music evenings where he heard chamber music being played. Then he started to go to the opera, and he heard church music and orchestral music. He liked the music of Grieg and decided that he wanted to do something similar with Spanish music. He went to Madrid where he studied very hard and won prizes. His first compositions were played in Cádiz. He studied with Pedrell who had also taught Albéniz and Granados.

He wrote a song called Tus ojillos negros which became very popular, and he won a prize for a piano composition, but it was his opera La vida breve (1904-1905) which really showed his genius, although it was not performed at the time. No one in Spain wanted to perform his zarzuelas, so he went to Paris in 1907. He soon made friends with Dukas, Debussy and Ravel. He made changes to La vida breve and it was performed in Paris in 1913. His piano works and songs were also performed in Paris, and in Madrid.

Mid career

In 1915 he wrote El amor brujo. It was a work with dances, songs and spoken passages. He soon turned it into a ballet. The music uses the songs of Andalusia and the rhythms of Spanish folkmusic. He wrote a work for solo piano and orchestra called Noches en los jardines de España (Nights in the gardens of Spain). Later he changed it to a ballet for Diaghilev, calling it El sombrero. It was performed in London in 1919 with designs by Picasso. The music is very lively and often sounds like a guitar. He wrote a piano piece called Fantasia bética (1919) which is the most important Spanish piano work after Albéniz’s Iberia.

Falla had many friends, including Lorca. They liked small theatre pieces and Falla wrote El retablo and set it as a puppet opera. He liked the music of the past centuries, and wrote a concerto for harpsichord and five other instruments.

Final years

During his final years Falla was composing a very large work called Atlántida. It was a long oratorio for soloists, chorus and orchestra. The words were in Catalan. Falla did not live long enough to finish the work. He became very depressed because of World War II. In the end he was invited to Argentina where he settled. He continued to work at Atlántida, but he had not finished it when he died. A man called Ernesto Halffter spent many years trying to finish it and prepare it for a performance. It was performed on stage at La Scala, Milan, in 1962, but it does not work well as an opera. Occasionally it is performed as a concert piece.


The New Grove Dictionary of Music & Musicians ed. Stanley Sadie, 1980


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