Federico García Lorca is one of the most important Spanish poets and dramatists of the twentieth century. He was born June 5, 1898, in Fuente Vaqueros, a small town a few miles from Granada. His father, Federico García Rodríguez, was a landowner, and his mother, Vicenta Lorca Romero, was a teacher.
Lorca published his first book, Impresiones y Viajes, in 1919. That same year, he travelled to Madrid, where he remained for the next decade. His first full-length play, El Maleficio de la mariposa, was produced there in 1920. The next year, he published Libro de poemas, a compilation of poems based on Spanish folklore.
In 1922, Lorca and the composer Manuel de Falla organized the first cante jondo, or “deep song,” festival in Granada; the deep song form permeated his poems of the early 1920s. During this period, Lorca also became part of a group of artists known as Generación del 27, which included Salvador Dalí and Luis Buñuel, who exposed the young poet to surrealism. In 1928, his poetry collection Romancero Gitano brought Lorca far-reaching fame; it was reprinted seven times during his lifetime.
In 1929 and 1930, Lorca travelled to New York City and Cuba. He returned to Spain in 1930 and, beginning in 1931, toured the country with the theatre group La Barraca. He was arrested in Granada on August 16, 1936, near the beginning of the Spanish Civil War, and was murdered by Fascist forces on August 18 or 19, 1936.
Born in Cadiz, which in ancient times was the edge of the known world and the gateway to the Atlantic Ocean, Manuel de Falla (1876-1946) moved with his family to Madrid in 1896. Though Spain still had a vital and authentic folk music tradition, the cultural scene was hopelessly provincial for an aspiring composer of Falla’s caliber. In 1904 Falla won a national composition contest with his opera La vida breve and hoped this would lead to performances of the work, thereby making him enough money to move to Paris. The organizers of the competition failed to secure a performance, so a frustrated Falla took off on a European tour as a pianist for a mime troupe. In 1907, the not-quite-so-young but not-yet-mature composer finally found himself on his own in the French capital.
Musical Paris was bubbling with things Spanish at the time. Debussy was composing Ibéria, Ravel was working on Rapsodie espagnole and L’heure espagnole, and Falla’s compatriot Albéniz had just completed the fourth book of his Iberia for piano. Falla soon earned the respect and affection of Paul Dukas using the score of La vida breve as his calling card, and Dukas introduced Falla to the other great musicians in town. Falla remained in Paris for seven years before returning to Spain in 1914, at the outbreak of World War I.
It was in Paris that Falla wrote his Siete canciones. Using a combination of authentic and “retouched” folk melodies, Falla succeeded in elevating what were simple, popular tunes to a higher artistic level by crafting truly integrated and original piano accompaniments, bringing to life the infectious melodies and rhythms inherent in the folk songs.
El paño moruno is a song from Murcia. It is interesting to note that Falla later reproduced the opening bass line of this number to characterize the Murcian miller in his ballet The Three-Cornered Hat. Seguidilla murciana is a dance-song in a quick triple time which relates some rather interesting words of wisdom. The Asturiana, as the name implies, comes from the Asturias, a region in the north of Spain, and is a sad lament. The Jota is a popular dance form which makes dramatic use of an active rhythmic introduction giving way to the voice, intoning with expressive rubato. Nana is a brief Andalusian lullaby which uses oriental modal inflections, placing it somewhere between E major and E minor. Canción begins with a light-hearted lilt, but the naive melody takes an anguishing bend on the word “madre.” Polo, also an Andalusian melody, uses violent guitar-like strumming to accompany the singer’s love-related despair.
Siete canciones received their premiere in Madrid in 1915 to great public and critical acclaim, helping gain Falla international recognition and attention.
(1860–1909). Pianist and composer Isaac Albéniz was a leader of the Spanish nationalist school of musicians. Often called the first Spanish impressionist, he is best known for his piano works that evoke the spirit of his native Spain.
Albéniz was born on May 29, 1860, in Camprodón, Spain. He appeared as a piano prodigy at age 4, and by 12 he had run away from home twice. Both times he supported himself by concert tours, eventually gaining his father’s consent to his wanderings. He studied at the Leipzig Conservatory in 1875–76 and, when his money ran out, obtained a scholarship to study in Brussels. From 1883 he taught in Barcelona and Madrid. He had previously composed simple salon music for piano, but in about 1890 he began to take composition seriously. He studied with Felipe Pedrell, the father of the nationalist movement in Spanish music, and in 1893 moved to Paris. There he came under the influence of Vincent d’Indy, Paul Dukas, and other French composers and for a time taught piano at the Schola Cantorum.
Albéniz’ fame rests chiefly on his piano pieces, which utilize the melodic styles, rhythms, and harmonies of Spanish folk music. The most notable work is Iberia (1905–09), a collection of 12 virtuoso piano pieces, considered by many to be a profound evocation of the spirit of Spain, particularly of Andalusia. Also among his best works are the Suite española, containing the popular “Sevillana”; the Cantos de España, which includes “Córdoba”; Navarra; and the Tango in D Major. Orchestrated versions of many of his pieces are also frequently played. In his later years, Albéniz developed Bright’s disease and was a near invalid for several years before his death, which came on May 18, 1909, in Cambo-les-Bains, France.