The Kennedy Center

Seven Popular Spanish Songs

About the Work

Manuel de Falla Composer: Manuel de Falla
© Dr. Richard E. Rodda

When Falla was preparing his opera La vida breve ("The Brief Life") for its first Paris performance, at the Opéra Comique on December 30, 1913 (it had been premiered in Nice on April 1), he received two requests-one from the soprano Luisa Vela, who was performing the leading role of Salud in the cast of La vida breve; the other, from a Greek singing teacher. Vela was planning a series of solo recitals during the coming months, and she asked Falla to provide some songs in Spanish style for her programs; the Greek singing teacher wanted advice about the appropriate accompanimental style for some melodies from his homeland. Falla experimented with setting one of the Greek songs, and discovered that he could extrapolate a suitable harmonic idiom from the implications of the melody itself. He tried out this new technique in the songs he was preparing for Vela, which he had decided would be settings of seven popular indigenous melodies culled from various regions of Spain. The Siete canciónes populares españolas were largely completed by the time he retreated to Spain in 1914 in the face of the German invasion of France; he and Vela gave their premiere at the Ateneo in Madrid on January 14, 1915.

El paño moruno ("The Moorish Cloth") comes from Murcia in southeastern Spain. Seguidilla murciana, also from the province of Murcia, is a popular dance song in quick triple time. Asturiana is a lament from the northern region of Asturias. The Jota, mainly associated with the central province of Aragon, is one of the most familiar of Spanish dance forms. Nana is an Andalusian lullaby. Canción ("Song") exhibits the pattern of mixed rhythmic stresses that characterizes much of Spain's indigenous music. Polo, Andalusian in origin, evokes the Gypsy world of flamenco.