Falla – Noches en los Jardines de España (Nights in the Gardens of Spain)

by Max Derrickson

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

Noches en los Jardines de España (Nights in the Gardens of Spain)
1. At the Generalife
2. Distant Dance
3. In the Gardens of the Sierra de Cordoba


Spanish composer Manuel de Falla, along with Albeniz and Granados, truly defined Spanish classical music in the late 19th Century and 20th Century.  Many of  his early compositions before he fled to Argentina in the 1930’s (as a refugee from the Spanish Civil War) were based on the regional folk music of Spain, but their style owed a great debt to the music of Debussy and Ravel, the French composers he came to know well during his years at the Paris Conservatorie.  The French style that so charmed Falla employed impressions of folk music, their harmonies and modes and attitudes, without actually using the melodies themselves.  Falla’s early impressionistic works, then, though highly nationalistic, often met with critical displeasure in his home country for being too French.  But upon hearing the Nights in the Gardens of Spain, any listener is unmistakably reminded of the exotic sounds of Falla’s home.


Composition of the Nights began while Falla was in Paris as a set of three nocturnes for solo piano in 1911, but was then expanded into its present piano concerto form in 1915, or as Falla referred to them “evocations in sound.”  Upon the first chords of At the Generalife, one hears Debussy’s influence, but clearly, also, mysterious evocations of Spain.  Indeed, the three nocturnes are true to the impressions of their Spanish subtitles.


Falla captured this essence of Spanish music by mimicking, but not quoting, the rhythms, modes, cadences and ornamental figures popular to Andalusia, and in short order and often, Falla cleverly turns the orchestra and piano into sounding like a guitar.  [. . .]