In the great flowering of Spanish classical music at the start of the 20th century, first Albéniz, then Granados and finally Falla brought international sophistication to a musical world on the fringe of Europe. They all spent crucial years in Paris, effectively the artistic capital of Latin Europe and the milieu of Debussy, Ravel and Dukas. And they had the genius to make thoroughly contemporary pieces out of distinctively Spanish material, giving the world a fresh perspective on their nation’s culture. Falla, although never an especially prolific composer, brought this achievement to a climax. Unlike his predecessors he was Andalucian, not Catalan. The character of southern Spanish music – flamenco and the type of Andalusian vocal folk music known as cante jondo – is integral to his creative spirit. Most dramatically it inspired El Amor brujo (‘Love, the Magician’, 1915), the powerful narrative of gypsy life which he first conceived as a theatre piece for flamenco singer, actors and chamber orchestra. There are also orchestral or ballet versions of the piece (which include songs for mezzo-soprano) which, although they soften the sound of the original, never weaken its impact. When Falla was in his early twenties, his family moved to Madrid where he studied and mixed with the Spanish musical elite. From 1900, partly to support the family, whose business was struggling, he taught piano and wrote operettas in the popular zarzuela form, none of which have survived complete. It was a short opera, La vida breve (‘Life is Short’), that made his name when it won a major national competition in 1905. Frustrated by his inability to get it staged, and encouraged by his compatriots Turina and Albéniz, Falla made the move to Paris in 1907. He stayed there until the outbreak of World War One, and became an integral part of the musical scene. He found a publisher with his Four Spanish Pieces for piano and eventually, in Nice, saw his opera produced. When he returned to Madrid in 1914 he was a major player, going on to compose some of his finest works. One of these, another Andalusian dance piece entitled El Corregidor y la Molinera (The Magistrate and the Miller’s Wife), appeared in 1917. Sergei Diaghilev, founder of the Ballets Russes, saw it and and commissioned him to turn it into a full-scale ballet. This was El sombrero de tres picos (‘The Three-Cornered Hat’), premiered in London in 1919. Thanks to the suites for orchestra that Falla made from it, the piece has become a fixture in the orchestral repertoire. In Madrid Falla completed the wider-ranging Noches en los jardines de España (‘Nights in the Gardens of Spain’), a piano concerto in all but name. He also began his puppet opera El retablo de Maese Pedro (‘Master Peter’s Puppet Show’), based on an episode of Cervantes’s novel Don Quixote. In 1920, when his parents died, he moved to Granada. There, although even less prolific than before, he became a revered national figure. Having lived through the Spanish Civil War, he was driven into exile by the outbreak of World War Two. He died in Argentina, leaving incomplete the vast opera Atlàntida on which he had been working for two decades. But the sketches he left were substantial enough for a performing version to be produced, and the work premiered at Milan’s La Scala opera house in 1962.