In Sacred Passions: The Life and Music of Manuel de Falla, Carol A. Hess explores these contradictions and offers a fresh understanding of this fascinating composer. Building on over a decade of research, Hess examines Falla's work in terms of musical style and explores the cultural milieus in which he worked. During a seven-year sojourn to Paris just pior to World War I, Falla associated with composers Dukas, Stravinsky, Ravel, and the rest of the group known as les Apaches. Later, back in Spain, he played a pivotal role in the remarkable cultural renaissance known as the "Silver Age," during which Lorca, Bunuel, Dali, Unamuno-and of course Falla himself-made some of their boldest artistic statements.
Hess also explores a number of myths cultivated in earlier biographies, including Falla's supposed misogynistic tendencies and accusations of homosexuality, which have led some biographers to consider him a saint-like ascetic. She offers a balanced view of his behavior during the Spanish Civil War, a wrenching event for a Spaniard of his generation, and one that Falla biographers have left largely untouched. With superb analysis of his music and enlightening detail about its critical reception, Hess also examines Falla's status in some circles as little more than a high-class pop composer, given the mass appeal of much of his music. She incorporates recent research on Falla, draws upon untapped sources in the Falla archives, and reevaluates his work in terms of current issues in musicology.
Ultimately, Hess places Falla's variegated ouevre, which straddles popular and serious idioms, securely among the best of his better-known European contemporaries. What emerges is a gracefully written, balanced portrait of a man whose lofty spiritual values inspired singular musical utterances but were often at odds with the decidedly imperfect world he inhabited.
Keywords: MUSIC / History & Criticism MUS020000