Manuel de Falla Biography

Manuel de Falla, the most distinguished Spanish composer of the early 20th century, was not only a renowned pianist but also a passionate advocate for Spanish folk music. Born into a music-loving family, Falla’s journey towards his musical vocation began after attending a concert by Edvard Grieg at the age of seventeen. Despite facing financial challenges while supporting his family, Falla impressed his teachers at Escuela Nacional de Musica y Declamacion in Madrid with his exceptional talent. It was during his time at the school that he developed a deep interest in Spanish folk music, which would later become a defining characteristic of his compositions. Falla’s nationalistic music truly embodies the pure spirit of Spain.

Quick Facts

  • Spanish Celebrities Born In November
  • Also Known As: Manuel de Falla y Matheu
  • Died At Age: 69
  • Family: father: José María Falla y Franco, mother: María Jesús Matheu y Zabala
  • Born Country: Spain
  • Pianists
  • Composers
  • Died on: November 14, 1946
  • Place of death: Alta Gracia, Argentina
  • Notable Alumni: Madrid Royal Conservatory
  • Cause of Death: Cardiac Arrest
  • More Facts
  • Education: Madrid Royal Conservatory

Childhood & Early Life

Manuel de Falla was born on November 23, 1876, in Cádiz, Spain. He came from a music-loving family, with his father being a businessman and his mother hailing from Catalonia. He had a younger sister named María del Carmen de Falla. Little is known about his family background, but they were well-off enough to have a family maid named La Morilla. Falla’s first teachers were his mother and grandfather, who taught him piano. At the age of nine, he made his first public appearance playing a piano duet with his mother. He began taking piano lessons with Eloísa Galluzo and later with Alejandro Odero and Enrique Broca. Despite his interest in literature, Falla attended a concert that inspired him to pursue a career in music.

Early Career

In 1899, Falla started his career as a composer, gaining recognition for his works such as Romanza para violonchelo y piano, Nocturno para piano, and Serenata andaluza para violín y piano. He also began using “de” with his title Falla. In 1905, he produced his first major work, an opera called La vida breve, which won first prize in a musical competition. Falla moved to Paris in 1907, where he met influential composers who influenced his style. He received a royal grant that allowed him to stay in Paris for six years. He returned to Madrid in 1914 and continued to compose music based on Andalusian folk music.

Back in Madrid

Upon returning to Madrid, Falla started working on El amor brujo, a composition based on Andalusian folk music. He completed it by 1915 and arranged different versions of the work. In 1916-17, he composed the music for a pantomime called El corregidor y la molinera. Falla’s works during this period, such as Noches en los jardines de España and Siete canciones populares españolas, gained him international recognition as a leading Spanish composer.

Later Career

In 1921, Falla moved to Granada, where he organized a festival called the Concurso de Cante Jondo to promote Andalusian folk music. He also produced notable works during this time, including the puppet opera El retablo de Maese Pedro. In 1923, he began working on a harpsichord concerto, which was completed in 1926. Falla also started working on a ballet based on the Catalan poem L’Atlàntida, but it remained unfinished at the time of his death. In 1939, he moved to Argentina and continued to compose on a smaller scale. Some of his important works from this period include Soneto a Córdoba and Balada de Mallorca.

Major Works

One of Falla’s most well-known works is Noches en los jardines de España, which he composed in 1916. He initially wrote it as a set of nocturnes for solo piano but later adapted it for piano and orchestra. This piece showcases Falla’s talent for incorporating Spanish folk music into his compositions.

Awards & Achievements

Falla was recognized for his contributions to music and was made an Associate of the Royal Academy of Science, Letters and Fine Arts of Belgium in 1935. He was also awarded the Knight Grand Cross of the Order of Alfonso X the Wise in 1940. Falla was a member of the Real Academia de Bellas Artes de San Fernando and the Real Academia de Bellas Artes de Nuestra Señora de las Angustias.

Death & Legacy

Manuel de Falla passed away on November 14, 1946, in Alta Gracia, Argentina, due to cardiac arrest. His remains were brought back to Spain in 1947 and entombed in the Cádiz Cathedral, despite his wish to be buried in Argentina. Falla’s compositions continue to be celebrated for their incorporation of Spanish folk music and his unique style.

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