One of the greatest Spanish composers of all time, Manuel de Falla created a unique musical style which fused impressionism with Spanish verve and passion, making his music instantly recognizable.
Manuel Falla was born in Cadiz and studied music from a very early age. At the age of 17, after attending a classical concert, he decided that music was his true vocation. He attended the Royal Music Conservatory in Madrid and he received prizes and acclaim for his early compositions within the conservatory. It was in this period that he added “de” to his surname.
Because of his family’s precarious financial situation, he started work as a piano teacher and composed light operas (Zarzuela) which were performed in Madrid. Still in his twenties, de Falla started to develop a deep interest in flamenco music and singing. In 1907 de Falla moved to Paris where he met Debussy, Ravel, and Pablo Picasso, amongst many other contemporary artists, musicians and intellectuals. It was here that he was encouraged to use his knowledge of flamenco as a source of inspiration in his composition along with the influence of impressionism to create his unique musical rhythms and sounds. In 1908 he was given a grant by the Spanish king Alfonso XIII which allowed him to remain in Paris which he completed his piano works “Four Spanish Pieces” and his started his magical pieces “Nights in the Gardens of Spain”.
De Falla returned to Spain in 1915 where pursued his illustrious composing career with works performed internationally. One of his most famous works is the ballet score “The Three-cornered Hat” which was debuted in London with scenery and costumes designed by Pablo Picasso. In the twenties De Falla went to live in Granada and became a close friend of the poet Federico García Lorca. During the Second Republic he wrote to the president in an attempt to prevent the burning and sacking of churches. At the outbreak of the Civil War he was also unsuccessful in preventing the killing of his friend García Lorca. Although he jointly composed a “Martial Anthem” for Franco’s forces, at the end of the Civil War De Falla went into voluntary exile in Argentina. Despite attempts by Franco to persuade him to return to Spain he died in exile in 1946. He never married or had children. In the 1960s his portrait appeared on 100 peseta notes.