In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Manuel de Falla

  • Introduction
  • General Overviews
  • Catalogues and Bibliographies
  • Writings, Iconography, and Memoirs
  • Correspondence
  • Facsimiles
  • Collections
  • European Contemporaries
  • Falla and Spanish Music
  • Early Critical Assessments
  • Operas
  • Atlántida
  • Ballets
  • Orchestral and Chamber Music
  • Piano Music
  • Guitar Music
  • Vocal Music and Arrangements
  • Analysis and Studies of Compositional Process
  • Aesthetics and Reception Studies

Music Manuel de Falla
Michael Christoforidis
  • LAST REVIEWED: 26 August 2013
  • LAST MODIFIED: 26 August 2013
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199757824-0094


Manuel de Falla (b. 1876–d. 1946) is recognized as the leading Spanish composer of the 20th century, best known for his ballets The Three-Cornered Hat (1919) and El amor brujo (1915/1925). His music has appealed to a broad public, both in Spain and internationally, a unique position among Hispanic composers. Born in Cádiz, Falla’s studies took him to Madrid, where he became part of the milieu of the Spanish musical renaissance that grew out of the late-19th-century Romantic nationalism of Tomás Bretón (b. 1850–d. 1923), Isaac Albéniz (b. 1860–d. 1909), and Enrique Granados (b. 1867–d. 1916) and the nationalist ideas of his teacher Felipe Pedrell (b. 1841–d. 1922). In Paris from 1907 to 1914, Falla became an integral member of the Franco-Hispanic milieu, and his music reflects the developments of the Parisian avant-garde. But Spanish nationalism remained a constant reference point throughout his career, and he continually reconsidered the ways in which it could be projected in his music. With the outbreak of World War I, Falla returned to Madrid and over the following years was closely associated with the circle of the Ballets Russes and Stravinsky. In 1920 Falla achieved his long-held dream of moving to Granada, which coincided with his neoclassical reorientation. The political turmoil of the 1930s exacerbated his creative impasse and instigated his emigration to Argentina in the aftermath of the Spanish Civil War, where he lived from 1939 until his 1946 death in Alta Gracia. Falla’s compositional output ranged from late-19th-century salon and theatrical forms, notably the verismo-inflected opera La vida breve (1905/1913), to mature styles shaped by Debussyan Impressionism and Stravinskyan Primitivism, Neoclassicism and Monumental opera. He completed only a handful of minor works during the last two decades of his life and worked on the scenic cantata Atlántida, which remained unfinished at his death. Like some of the composers of his Parisian milieu, Falla wrote relatively few works, but each mature composition signals new conceptual aims and musical goals. Falla’s oeuvre directly influenced two generations of Spanish composers as well as having an impact on a number of European and American musicians. He was involved in the intellectual debates of his time, collaborating with leading contemporary authors and artists, notably Federico García Lorca (b. 1898–d. 1936) and Pablo Picasso (b. 1881–d. 1973). The subject of both scholarly and general literature since the early 20th century, Falla has received more critical attention than any other post-Renaissance Spanish composer. Since the late 1980s, a new wave of research has been based on the wealth of primary sources made available through the Archivo Manuel de Falla (AMF), which opened to the public in purpose-built facilities in Granada in 1991.

General Overviews

There are a number of general overviews of Spanish music and culture for the period in which Manuel de Falla was active, many of which include significant chapters dedicated to the composer. These publications can provide useful introductions to Falla’s music and the contexts in which it was created. Chase 1941, Starkie 1958, and Livermore 1972 are representative of mid-20th-century monographs on Spanish music by English-speaking Hispanists, all of whom knew or corresponded with Falla, and position his music at the vanguard of the modern Spanish school. Marcó 1993 provides a Spanish post-Franco era perspective of 20th-century music in that country, commencing with a chapter on Falla, while Alonso, et al. 2010 produces the clearest historically informed account of Spanish musical nationalism in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Falla is situated within the discourses of Spanish musical nationalism in Persia 2003 and Pérez-Zalduondo 2007, while Parakilas 1998 concludes with a reading of Falla’s music in relation to Parisian musical representations of Spain over the previous century.

  • Alonso, Celsa, Julio Arce, Teresa Fraile, et al., eds. Creación musical, cultura popular y construcción nacional en la España contemporánea. Madrid: Instituto Complutense de Ciencias Musicales, 2010.

    Alonso’s extended essay, which constitutes Part I of this multiauthored volume, presents the most coherent overview and nuanced synthesis of Spanish nationalism and its relation to musical identity in the literature, focusing on the period that spans Falla’s lifetime.

  • Chase, Gilbert. The Music of Spain. New York: Norton, 1941.

    This historic text plots the history of Spanish music from the medieval period, positing an evolution that climaxes with the appearance of Falla and his musical disciples. Chase’s account is informed by Falla’s perspectives on his career, as he sought and received feedback from the composer on the relevant parts of the manuscript.

  • Livermore, Ann. A Short History of Spanish Music. London: Duckworth, 1972.

    Overview of Spanish music from the medieval period to the 1950s. Includes an extended chapter on Spanish folk music and discussion of Spanish composers who looked to European models, beginning with Isaac Albéniz. The section on Falla is informed by the author’s direct contact with the composer and flavored by insightful anecdotes.

  • Marcó, Tomás. Spanish Music in the Twentieth Century. Translated by Cola Franzen. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1993.

    Originally published in Spanish as Volume 6 of Historia de la música española (Madrid: Alianza, 1983), this overview of Spanish music to 1980 was written by a composer, musical activist, and leading figure in Spanish music during the second half of the 20th century. Provides a reading of Falla’s music shaped by the meanings it accrued for the post–Civil War generation under Franco.

  • Parakilas, James. “How Spain Got a Soul.” In The Exotic in Western Music. Edited by Jonathan Bellman, 137–193. Boston: Northeastern University Press, 1998.

    Parakilas explores various waves of Parisian musical exoticism based on Spanish themes, providing a narrative thread from the Napoleonic era to World War I. Concludes with a section on Falla’s debt to this tradition, interpreting it in the light of auto-exoticism. However, does not engage with the preceding generation of Franco-Spanish musical exchanges in Paris, which range from popular theatrical entertainment to the music of Isaac Albéniz.

  • Pérez-Zalduondo, Gemma. “Racial Discourses in Spanish Musical Literature, 1915–1939.” In Western Music and Race. Edited by Julie Brown, 216–229. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2007.

    Pérez-Zalduondo, a leading Spanish scholar on music and politics, presents a critical overview of the idea of race and how it underpinned debates on Spanish musical nationalism from the onset of World War I to the end of the Civil War. Includes commentary on Falla’s writings and their reception.

  • Persia, Jorge de. En torno a lo español en la música del siglo XX. Granada, Spain: Diputación de Granada, 2003.

    Persia’s monograph builds on his earlier publications to present an overview of the rise in Spanish musical nationalism in the first quarter of the 20th century. It is largely focused on the musical and cultural circles associated with Falla’s artistic trajectory: Madrid, pre–World War I Paris, post–World War I Granada, and references to Barcelona.

  • Starkie, Walter. Spain: A Musician’s Journey through Time and Space. 2 vols. Geneva, Switzerland: Edisli-at Editions Rene Kister, 1958.

    Starkie was a prominent Hispanist, musician, and travel writer who met with Falla on several occasions (as documented in his travel writings). This survey of Spanish music from medieval times up to Falla includes major sections on Spanish folk music and flamenco, as well as recordings of some of this repertory.

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