THE FLAVOR OF SPAIN™
This Week’s Spanish Composer: MANUEL DE FALLA (1876-1946)
by Elena Greco
September 2, 2015
Manuel de Falla, one of the best-known Spanish composers, was born in Cadiz of a Valencian father and a Catalonian mother. De Falla was extremely dedicated to the study and propagation of Spanish music. His compositions are totally representational of the Spanish sound, in particular the sound of cante jondo, the origin of Flamenco, which influenced him greatly.
He attended the Real Conservatorio in Madrid, where he studied piano with José Tragó, a student of Albéniz. While living in Madrid, he studied composition with Felip Pedrell, a great Spanish folklorist, who inspired him to delve into the folklore and history of Spanish music. As a result, his songs reflect a deep understanding of their folkloric sources. He was also greatly influenced by composer Louis Lucas, a proponent of a more natural form of music composition, unburdened by the usual formal rules. De Falla followed Lucas’ principles in his songs, using traditional musical sounds, the poet’s intention and the natural voice, rather than creating a classical composition for a classically-trained voice.
De Falla’s well-known SIETES CANCIONES reflect the origins of each of the songs perfectly, and his accompaniments evoke the feeling of the traditional folk music they are based on. We hear in SIETES CANCIONES the rhythms of flamenco, the sound of cante jondo in the voice and the sound of the guitar in the piano accompaniment. In addition, there are dance rhythms and plaintive melodies which reflect northern Spain. Each of the seven songs is from a different autonomous region in Spain, and so form a perfect reflection of the country as a whole. The sheet music is available from IMSLP.
Because it is impossible for me to choose, here are six very different renditions of the complete set by some wonderful interpreters.
Sietes Canciones: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KZg0IYGgXvA
Teresa Berganza, mezzo; Felix Lavilla, piano
Sietes Canciones: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zBknU8zxjCo
Isabel Penagos, soprano; Miguel Zanetti, piano
Sietes Canciones: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RH2V4Pz3yjI
José Carreras, tenor; Martin Katz, piano
Sietes Canciones: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jUia66S2HKo
Conchita Supervía (1895-1936), mezzo-soprano; Frank Marshall, piano (recorded 1930)
Sietes Canciones (plus two other de Falla songs): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P5zLfHP8k70
Maria Barrientos, coloratura soprano; Pianist unknown (recorded 1928)
(the rest of the songs in the set are available individually on YouTube)
Isabel Leonard, mezzo; Sharon Isbin, guitar (arr for guitar)
THE FLAVOR OF SPAIN™
What is it about Spanish music that lets you know instantly that what you’re hearing is Spanish? The Flavor of Spain™ explores the exotic cultural influences that create that unique sound. Deep in the lush, passionate and thrilling sound of this music are influences of the Moorish, Greek, Turkish, Italian, French, Sephardic and Flamenco cultures, and you will hear all of these elements in the music of The Flavor of Spain concert series.
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