Manuel de Falla y Matheu was a Spanish musician and composer. He is remembered alongside Isaac Albeniz and Enrique Granados as one of the most important Spanish composers of the post-modern era. He was even featured on Spain’s 100-pesetas banknote during the 1970’s.
Manuel de Falla was born on November 24, 1876 in Cadiz, Spain as Manuel Maria de los Dolores Falla. Falla was first introduced to the piano by his mother when he was about seven years old, and at the age of nine, Falla was given formal piano lessons by Eloisa Galluzo. However, these lessons were soon cut short as Galluzo decided to become a nun. Even so, Falla continued his piano lessons with Alejandro Odera, and later with Enrique Broca, with whom he also studied harmony and counterpoint. At the age of fifteen, he founded two journalistic magazines, titled “El Burlon” and “El Cascabel”. However, it was at the age of seventeen that he decided to turn his attention to music completely. It was said that the decision came after he had been overwhelmed by a concert of Edvard Grieg’s compositions.
In 1896, Falla moved to Madrid and enrolled at the Real Conservatorio de Musica y Declamacion. At the Conservatorio, Falla had the honor of studying under Felip Pedrell and José Tragó. In 1899, he won first prize at a piano competition in his school. During this time, Falla composed many piano works, including “Medolia”, “Romanza para violinchelo y piano”, “Nocturno para piano”, “Serenata andaluza para violin y piano” and “Serenata Andaluza y Valz Capricho para piano”. He premiered the latter most work at the Ateneo de Madrid. He also participated in the Madrid Royal Conservatory Competition, where he premiered his “Allegro de Concierto”. Falla gathered plenty of attention after he premiered his one-act opera titled “La vida breve”, which was awarded the first prize in the Real Academia de Bellas musical competition. In order to promote the opera, Falla travelled to Paris, London, Brussels and Milan, on a journey which would help him meet musical legends such as Igor Stravinsky and Claude Debussy. In fact, Falla lived in Paris between 1907 and 1914, he only returned to Madrid after the outbreak of World War I.
Upon his return from Paris, Falla wrote two ballets and a nocturne. Of these, the ballet “The Magistrate and the Miller’s Wife” involved the great Russian art critic, Serge Diaghilev, and even Pablo Picasso himself. Falla then moved to Granada in 1921 for unknown reasons. There, he organized the highly renowned flamenco celebration, “El Concurso del Cante Jondo” in 1922. He also published his “Harpsichord Concerto” in 1926 and his puppet opera, “El Retablo de Maese Pedro” in 1923. These were very important works for the harpsichord, as these were the first ever works that intended to include the harpsichord in a full orchestra.
Falla then started work on a large-scale orchestral cantata which he titled “Atlantida”. Unfortunately, the work remained unfinished till his death. The work was later finished by Ernesto Halffter. In 1939, Falla moved to Argentina after the Spanish civil war had been decided in favor of Francisco Franco. There, Falla was named a Knight of the Order of King Alfonso X of Castille in 1940.
Manuel de Falla died due to cardiac arrest on November 14, 1946 in Alta Gracia, Argentina.