Harpsichord Concerto (Falla)

Concerto for Harpsichord, Flute, Oboe, Clarinet, Violin and Cello is a chamber concerto written for harpsichord and chamber ensemble by the Spanish composer Manuel de Falla in 1923–26. It was written for and premiered by Wanda Landowska, to whom the score is dedicated.


Falla had met Wanda Landowska on several occasions in the early 1920s, and by the time she participated in the Paris premiere of Falla's El retablo de maese Pedro in June 1923, he had already decided to write a concerto for her. Although there was never a formal commission, composition began in October 1923 but work proceeded slowly. Landowska first planned to perform the work in the 1923–24 season. When Falla found it impossible to meet that deadline, Landowska discussed with Leopold Stokowski a performance as part of the Philadelphia Orchestra's 1924–25 season, but again Falla could not finish the work in time. The premiere finally took place in Barcelona on 5 November 1926, with further performances in New York and Boston (Hess 2001, 233–35).

The Concerto was the last lengthy work Falla completed. Although there are several subsequent pieces in his catalogue that are important for their content, none of them lasts more than ten minutes, and his final, monumental project, the opera-oratorio Atlántida, on which he worked for twenty years, remained unfinished at his death (Nommick 1998a, 12–13).

It is commonly regarded as a model example of both mysticism (of a sort originating in Spanish religious tradition) and a severe and ascetic form of neoclassicism (as opposed to the "frivolous" neoclassicism of Igor Stravinsky) (Stoianova 1999, 277).


The work is in three movements:

An abundance of surviving documents facilitates an understanding of both the slow, meticulous creative evolution and also the structure of the work. On the one hand, there is the extensive correspondence between Wanda Landowska and Falla from the period 1922–30, and on the other hand numerous sketches, drafts, and intermediate stages of the score that are preserved in the Manuel de Falla Archive and the Archive Valentín Ruiz-Aznar, both located in Granada (Nommick 1998a, 14).

The second movement is inscribed at the end "A. Do. MCMXXVI—In festo Corporis Christi", though the composer said the date was "a matter of pure chance" (Hess 2004, 161).


Further reading

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