As introduced in our post last week, Reimagining Flamenco sees a cast of musicians performing both flamenco-inspired works by Manuel de Falla and classically-flavored reinventions of guitar and piano pieces by the old flamenco masters. While we focused on flamenco as a whole last time, this week we focus on Manuel de Falla and his Seven Popular Spanish Songs. 

Manuel de Falla (b. Cádiz, Spain, November 23, 1876; d. Alta Gracia, Argentina, November 14, 1946)

Composed 1914; 13 minutes

Although the songs are based on various printed sources, Spanish composer Manuel de Falla said: “in popular song, the spirit is more important than the letter.” Falla’s Seven Popular Spanish Songs received their premiere in Madrid, after the war forced the composer to end a seven-year sojourn in France. Falla sold the rights to a Paris publisher, the legend goes, for less than the price of a bottle of champagne. The songs quickly became the most performed of all Spanish songs and were arranged by various hands for different instruments. Falla’s aim was to create a sequence of songs from authentic folksongs and to represent the different regions and idioms of Spain. The composition and success of the songs likely prompted Falla’s subsequent first-hand exploration of Spanish folk song and flamenco sources and his commitment to the preservation of Andalusia’s musical heritage.

El paño moruno (“The Moorish Cloth”) is a sardonic song full of innuendo from the province of Murcia, to which Falla adds an accompaniment with flamenco coloring and an Andalusian scale. Seguidilla murciana is also from the same region of Murcia, a song which Falla said he wished “to free from the prison of past formality… like a bird from its cage.” Asturiana is a sad lament over lost love from Asturias, in the north of Spain. Jota is one of the best-known lively Spanish dance-songs, from the Aragon region. Nana is an Andalusian lullaby whose origins according to the composer lie in India, with an accompaniment derived from Arabic sources. Canción is a bittersweet, resigned love-song over a rocking accompaniment. Polo is a fiery, flamenco Andalusian song, with woeful cries of “Ay,” driving rhythms and spicy dissonances, cursing love itself.

Reimagining Flamenco will take place Thursday, July 11, 2019 at 8 p.m.