FALLA: Popular Spanish Suite / Piano Pieces / Harpsichord Concerto (Brett Kelly/ Elizabeth Anderson/ Elizabeth Sellars/ Len Vorster/ Merlyn Qualife/ Michael Atkinson/ Rosanne Hunt/ Schirmer Ensemble) (Naxos: 8.554366)
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Manuel de Falla(1876-1946)
Popular Spanish Suitefor Violin and Piano
Dance of theCorregidor from The Three-Cornered Hat for Solo Harp
Two Dances from LoveThe Magician for Cello and Piano
Mazurka; Serenata;Cancion for Piano
Psyche for Soprano,Flute, Harp, Violin, Viola and Cello
Homage to ClaudeDebussy for Guitar
Soneto a Cordoba forSoprano and Harp
Concerto forHarpsichord, Flute Oboe, Clarinet, Violin and Cello
Manuel de Falla was born in Cadiz on 23rd November 1876, and died inAlta Gracia, Argentina on 14th November 1946. His early musical training inCadiz was private and somewhat haphazard, and was concluded by two years ofintensive study at the Real Conservatorio in Madrid in 1896-8; but like manySpanish composers of his generation he received his advanced musical educationin Paris, where he lived from 1907 until 1914 and where he came to know Dukas(who described him affectionately as 'the little black Spaniard'), Debussy andRavel. Most of the works by which his name is remembered were composed duringthe earlier part of his career: his opera La vida breve in 1904-5, hisballets El amor brujo and El sombrero de tres picos in 1914-16and 1916-19, respectively, and his 'symphonic impressions' for piano andorchestra, Noches en Ios jardines de Espana in 1911-15. In 1920 he leftMadrid and settled (with his faithful sister Maria del Carmen as housekeeperand amanuensis) in Granada, where, among other things, he organised a festivalof cante jondo, the traditional song of Andalucia, and founded a chamberorchestra which became known as the 'Orquesta Betica da Camera' and whoseconductor was his disciple, Ernesto Halffter. Falla's compositions of the 1920sand 1930s, though important, are conceived on a small scale, with the exceptionof the huge 'scenic cantata' Atlantida, which he began in December 1928but never finished (it was completed after his death by Halffter). In October1939 Falla and his sister sailed from Barcelona to Buenos Aires, and he was tospend the remaining six years of his life in Argentina, in poor health andcomparative obscurity. His embalmed body was taken by sea to his birthplace,Cadiz, and was buried in the crypt of the cathedral.
The Siete canciones populares espanolas owe their inception to arequest from a Spanish singer in the cast of La vida breve when it wasproduced in Paris in 1914, who wanted something Spanish for a projectedrecital. The songs were ready by the time Falla left Paris for Madrid inSeptember that year and they were performed for the first time on 14th January1915 at the Ateneo in Madrid by Luisa Vela and the composer. The transcriptionof six of them (omitting Seguidilla murciana) was made, as Suitepopulaire espagnole, by the Polish violinist Pawel Kochaiski. El panomoruno ('The Moorish cloth') comes from Murcia; Nana, a gentlelullaby, and the fiery Polo from Andalucia; the sad Asturiana fromThe Asturias (modem Oviedo); and the dashing Jota from Aragon; theorigin of Cancion, a bitter-sweet love-song, is uncertain. All are, inthe words of Ronald Crichton, 'intensely imaginative re creations' by Falla.
El sombrero de tres picos, a short novel by Pedro de Alarcon (1833-91)about a magistrate (corregidor), whose symbol of office is athree-cornered hat, a tricorne, who tries to seduce a miller's wife (molinera),only to become the laughing-stock of the town, had been set as an opera (DerCorregidor) by Hugo Wolf in 1895. Falla had been interested in making amusical setting as early as 1904, but because Alarcon's heirs refused theirpermission had set La vida breve instead. In 1916 the impresario SergeyDyagilev was in Spain with part of his Ballets Russes and invited Falla tocollaborate with them. Dyagilev suggested adapting Nocbes, but Fallademurred and proposed Sombrero. Dyagilev agreed to the piece being triedout as a mime-play by Falla's dramatist friend Gregorio Martinez Sierra, withaccompaniment by Falla for small ensemble. The result was a farsa mimica intwo scenes, entitled El corregidor y la molinera, which was produced on7th April 1917 at the Teatro Eslava in Madrid under Joaquin Turina. AfterDyagilev had suggested a few modifications Falla expanded it into a full-scaleballet, re-scored it for full orchestra and restored Alarcon's own title. Inthis form it was staged for the first time, as The Three-Cornered Hat, on22nd July 1919 in the aptly-named Alhambra Theatre in London, by the BalletsRusses under Ernest Ansermet, with choreography by Leonide Massine (who alsoplayed the miller) and sets and costumes by Picasso. The ballet was produced atthe Opera in Paris on 23rd January 1920, as Le Tricorne. The formal, old?¡-fashionedDance of the Corregidor, played here in a transcription for harp byDavid Watkins, comes from the second scene.
El amor brujo ('Love the Magician') was composed between November1914 and April 1915, at the instigation of the gypsy singer and dancer PastoraImperio, who asked Falla and Sierra for 'a dance and a song'. The originalversion, scored for mezzo-soprano and small instrumental ensemble, was given forthe first time on 15th April 1915 by Imperio and her company under MorenoBallesteros, at the Teatro Lara in Madrid, but it was not a success. The Pressactually criticised the score for its lack of Spanish character; an astonishingassertion when one considers that, although no folk tunes as such are used init, the music was radically influenced by the Andalusian soleares,seguiiriyas, polos and martinetes which Rosario la Mejorana,Pastora's mother, had sung to Falla. Other performances followed in Barcelona,but in 1916 Falla re-scored it for a normal theatre orchestra (but with animportant piano part), in which form it received successful concertperformances (with and without the songs) in Madrid. This revised version wasstaged for the first time on 22nd May 1925, when the ballet was produced at theTrianon-Lyrique Theatre in Paris, with the composer conducting SpectaclesBeriza. The scene is a gypsy camp Candelas is in love with Carmelo, but ishaunted by the ghost of her dead lover, a dissolute but fascinating gypsy whosememory threatens her hopes of finding happiness with Carmelo. Pantomima portraysa dance by Candelas' friend Lucia, in an attempt to distract the ghost'sattention from Candelas so that she and Candelo can embrace and break the spell.
The dance itself is a seductive Cadiz tango in 7/8, begun, in the ballet, bythe orchestra's principal cello; it is prefaced by a dramatic reference to theghost's theme and followed by a coda which suggests that the spell is beginningto weaken. Cancion is the 'Song of love's sorrow', in which Candelasexpresses her frustration in cante jondo style. Both excerpts are playedhere in transcriptions for cello and piano by Charles Schiff.
When Falla completed his studies at the Conservatorio in Madrid he was afully fledged virtuoso pianist, but his major compositions for the instrument, Nochesand the Fantasia baetica, came some twenty years later. Among hisearliest piano works are unpretentious salon pieces such as the Mazurka, theSerenata and the Cancion, which were written in 1899-1900 andpublished a year or two later.
Falla met the French writer Georges Jean-Aubry in Paris in 1910, and theassociation continued after Jean-Aubry moved to London in 1915 and when heedited The Chesterian (the house magazine