Falla, Manuel de (1876–1946)
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Spanish composer Manuel Maria de Falla y Matheu was the eldest son of a cultured and prosperous couple who resided in the Andalusian city of Cádiz. Falla’s parents made sure that their three children had the best tutors at home, including excellent training in music. At twenty, Falla enrolled as a student at the Real Conservatorio de Música in Madrid, where he completed the demanding course in piano in just two years. He later fell under the sway of the noted composer and musicologist Felipe Fedrell, who encouraged Falla to explore Spanish folk music. In 1907, Falla journeyed to Paris, where he impressed leading French composers such as Dukas, Ravel, and Debussy. While in Paris, Falla was entranced by the music and aesthetics of impressionism and worked hard to perfect his mastery of orchestration. This seven-year period of study in Paris bore fruit in 1915 with the creation of the gipsy ballet El amor brujo and the completion in the same year of a set of “symphonic impressions” for piano and orchestra entitled Noches en los jardines de España. Falla’s next large work, the ballet El sombrero de tres picos, was written for Diaghilev’s Ballets Russes; it successfully premiered in London on July 22, 1919, with choreography by Diaghilev’s then lover Léonid Massine and decor by Picasso. Falla settled in Granada in 1920, living with his sister, María del Carmen. Falla’s serene life was shattered by the convulsions of the Spanish Civil War. The deleterious effect of the war on the composer’s precarious physical and mental health eventually necessitated an escape from Spain. Falla and his sister emigrated to a remote part of Argentina in 1939, where he worked on his final work, the “scenic cantata” Atlántida. This massive score was left unfinished at the composer’s death and was later completed by Falla’s disciple Ernesto Halffter.