Spanish composer, a leading exponent of the new nationalism in twentieth-century Spanish music.
Falla studied the piano in Madrid from the age of eight; later (1902–04) he studied composition with Felìpe Pedrell (1841–1922), the prime influence in the renaissance of Spanish music in the twentieth century. In 1905 he won both a prize for piano playing and an open competition for a national opera with La vida breve (The Short Life). However, the opera was not performed and Falla left for Paris, where he was befriended by Debussy, Ravel, and Dukas. Dukas was instrumental in producing La vida breve, first in Nice (1913) and later that year at the Opéra-Comique in Paris. The outbreak of World War I forced Falla to return to Madrid, where his talents were now duly recognized. A man of retiring nature, over the next twenty years he was increasingly distressed by the worsening political situation in Spain and by the brutalities of the civil war; in 1939 he emigrated to Argentina, where he spent the last seven years of his life. Falla refrained from using actual folk material in his music; instead he evoked the spirit of Spain, particularly of his native Andalusia.
His most creative years were 1915 to 1925, when he composed such colourful works as the two ballets Love, the Magician (1915) and The Three-Cornered Hat (1919), the puppet opera Master Peter's Puppet Show (1923), Nights in the Gardens of Spain for piano and orchestra (completed 1915), the Homage on the Death of Claude Debussy for solo guitar (1921), and the Six Popular Spanish Songs (1922). All these works are thoroughly Spanish in idiom; his concerto for harpsichord (or piano) and flute, oboe, clarinet, violin, and cello (1926), on the other hand, has more in common with the keyboard style of Domenico Scarlatti in its restrained classical idiom.