Falla – El Amor Brujo Suite

by Max Derrickson

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

El amor brujo (Love, the Magician)

  1. Introduction and scene… In the cave
  2. Song of suffering love
  3. The specter… Dance of fear
  4. Magic circle… Midnight
  5. Ritual fire dance
  6. Scene
  7. Song of the will-o’-the-wisp
  8. Pantomime
  9. Dance of the game of love
  10. Finale… The bells of dawn


Spanish composer Manuel de Falla, along with Albeniz and Granados, truly defined Spanish art music in the late 19th and early 20th Century.  Many of Falla’s early compositions, before he fled the Spanish Civil War to Argentina in 1940, were based on the regional folk music of Spain.  His style owed a great debt, however, to the music of Debussy, Ravel and Dukas, the French composers he came to know well during his years in Paris and its famous Conservatoire.  That style employed impressions of folk music, their harmonies and modes and attitudes, without actually using the melodies themselves.  Falla’s early impressionistic works, though intensely Spanish, often met with criticism in his home country for sounding too French.  A case in point is one of his most alluring masterpieces, based on Spanish-Andalusia gypsy folk tale and song, El amor brujo of 1915 (revised in 1925).  Although it has remained consistently popular in the concert hall, it was generally lambasted as anti-Spanish on its premiere.  But the rest of the music world recognized, then and now, Falla’s music as quintessential Spanish masterpieces.


[. . .]

Falla’s music and gypsy flamenco (hondo style) songs are deliciously atmospheric and gritty.  The sol and sombra (sun and shadow) of an ancient way of Spanish life are evocatively captured with powerful melodies and lustrous romanticism.  And in this suite (this 1925 revision) we hear the fantastic Ritual fire dance (the music that accompanies the exorcism) — at turns haunting, frightening, and infectiously physical.  Perhaps most impressive, however, is how Falla captured the duende (a beautiful Spanish word for an understanding of the earthy/lusty/humanness of life) of the vocal character of gypsy flamenco.  In every movement there are musical delights and delicacies to be found.


II. Song of suffering love

I don’t know what I’m feeling,
Nor what is happening to me
When that cursed gypsy deserts me!
How you burn, Candela!
Stronger than the fires of hell
Burns my blood, enflamed by jealousy!
Ay! When the river sings,
What does it mean?  Ay!
For the love of another he forgets me!
Ay! When the fire burns,
When the river sings,
If water doesn’t quench the fire
I am condemned to suffer!
I am poisoned by love!
My sorrows will kill me!


VII. Song of the will-o’-the-wisp
Just like the will-o’-the-wisp,
So is love.
You flee from it and it follows you,
You call it and it runs away.
Cursed are the dark eyes
That get to see it!
Cursed is the sad heart
That wished to burn in its flame!
Just like the will-o’-the-wisp,
Love vanishes.


IX. Voice heard during the Dance of the game of love
You are that gypsy devil
Whom a pretty girl loved;
The love she gave you
You did not deserve!
Who would have thought
That you would trade her for another?
I am the voice of your destiny!
I am the fire in which you burn!
I am the wind in which you sigh!
I am the sea in which you founder!


X. Voice heard in the Finale… The bells of dawn
The day awakens!
Sing, bells, sing!
For my happiness is returning!