Lorca, the musician.

Pensamiento Poético by Federico dated 29 January 1916 
Music was one of the great passions of Lorca's life. He was a musician before he was a creative writer and had composed music before he wrote his first poems. He was an accomplished pianist at an early age, and it was performing a Beethoven sonata on the piano at the Centro Artístico in Granada that he drew the attention of Fernando de los Ríos, a man who played a decisive role at various stages in Lorca's life. 


Lorca's piano teacher for many years was Antonio Segura Mesa who had unrealised creative aspirations of his own. Lorca was hoping to move to Paris to continue his music studies, but when his old teacher died, his budding musical career was abruptly halted. It was then that Lorca's artistic pretensions turned to poetry.

{photo of Antonio Segura Mesa}

Antonio Segura Mesa, Lorca's music teacher, who died 26 May 1916 

Antonio Segura Mesa was the person who initiated Lorca in the study of popular Spanish folk songs. The poet's first published work (1918), a book of prose entitled "Impresiones y paisajes", was dedicated to him. Musicality remains an essential element in all of Lorca's subsequent poetic and dramatic production, from poetry collections such as Canciones and Suites to the rural tragedies of Bodas de sangre and Yerma.

Collaboration with/influence of Manuel de Falla. 

Later, Lorca's love of popular music was nurtured by his contact with Manuel de Falla, who settled in Granada in 1919. Together, Lorca and Falla would travel through the villages of Andalusia on the lookout for genuine traditional folk songs.

Federico on the left, Don Manuel on the right, on a motorcar excursion to the Alpujarras, south of Granada.

Cante Jondo.

The two men's shared interest in Andalusian folk music came to fruition in the organising of the Cante Jondo Competition in June 1922. 
Antonio López Sánchez.

Caricatura del concurso del cante jondo.

On stage: Diego Bermúdez, alias El Tío Tenazas. He was the relevation of the event, having walked from Puente Genil to take part. They say he had given up professional singing some 30 years before, because he had a lung punctured by a knife wound.

There's Lorca in the third row, with his hand over his head. In front of him, to his left, Manuel de Falla.

Front left:
Pastora Pavón, La niña de los peines.


A recording of the highlights of this two-day competition is available through the García Lorca Foundation.  



El poema del cante jondo, most of it written in November 1921, published 1931.



Pastora Pavón, La niña de los peines (1890-1969).


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Canciones Populares Españoles. (Spanish Folk Songs).

Popular Spanish music pervades all of Lorca's dramatic and poetic production in various ways. But his fascination with the popular tradition culminated in the series of recordings of Spanish songs, arranged for voice and piano by Federico himself, on which he accompanies La Argentinita (Encarnación López Júlvez) at the piano .


 La Argentinita, as she performed the song "Los mozos de Monleón",  when she recorded it with Federico in Barcelona, 1931   

The following are titles of folk songs collected by Lorca himself on his travels through the Spanish countryside:

He also did the musical arrangements for the first five; the arrangements of the last three are by Emilio de Torre. Other folk songs that Lorca wrote arrangements for are: Los mozos de Monleón, las Morillas de Jaén, Sevillanas del siglo XVIII, Nana de Sevilla, Zorongo, and Duérmete niño mío.

Anda jaleo, Zorongo, and Las reyes de la baraja were encorporated into the extended version of La zapatera prodigiosa that Lorca prepared for Lola Membrives in Buenos Aires, December 1933.

A recent version of the popular songs was released in Lorca's centenary year (1998) by the well-known Spanish singer, Ana Belén.  Following this link you can order Ana Belén's version of the popular songs. 

The Garcia Lorca Foundation offer a version of the Songs arranged for voice and piano, sung by Elena Gragera, accompanied by Antón Cardó. Follow this link. The original version of the Songs sung by La Argentinita accompanied by Federico at the piano is available here.

Another version of the Popular Spanish Songs is one performed by Franciose Atlan and Juan Luque Carmona. Follow this link.

If you would like a collection of Twentieth Century Popular Spanish Songs which includes not only those songs collected and arranged by Lorca, but also others by two major Spanish composers, Falla and Rodrigo, then this is the link to follow.

A more classical version of the songs has been recorded by the Barcelona Teatro Liure Chamber Orchestra, directed by Josep Pons, with Olga Serra and Ginesa Ortega. (Josep Pons is now conductor of the Granada City Orchestra.) The songs are coupled on this recording with Falla's "El Corregidor y la molinera" (The Three-corned Hat). Follow this link to order.

Finally, the world famous flamenco guitarrist, Paco de Lucía has recorded his own version of the songs, which, with their lively rythms and attractive melodies, are well-suited to this instrument. Follow this link for Paco de Lucía's guitar arrangement of Lorca's Popular Spanish Songs.

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  Conference-Recitals on musical topics. 
Apart from the recordings done with La Argentinita, Lorca's love of the popular Spanish musical tradition is evident in two of his conference-recitals. The first dates from December 1928 when the dramatist-poet gave his talk on Spanish Lullabies at the Residencia de Estudiantes in Madrid, illustrating his talk with songs that he sang himself, while accompanying himself on the piano.
{drawing of Federico at the piano}
Drawing by José Moreno Villa of Lorca performing the lullaby "La Nana" Residencia de Esudiantes Madrid 1928
The second of these conference-recitals, "How a City Sings from November to November", again with musical illustrations performed by himself, was first held in Buenos Aires in October 1933 and is a description of the seasons in Granada as depicted in local folk song.


"How a City Sings from November to November" can be bought following this link.   A Season in Granada is a collection of prose and poetry on themes related to Granada and includes, of course, "How a City Sings...".

Lorca as Lyricist.

Just as Lorca's life and works were pervaded by music, so have Lorca's life and works pervaded music during the six decades since his death. Flamenco artists, in particular, have found inspiration in his poetic texts. After Franco's death, Lorca's work receives frequent musical treatment during the 1980 and 90s.

The great  Granada-born flamenco singer, who has always included works of Lorca in his repetoire, Enrique Morente, made his own tribute to Lorca in the poet's centenary year. Called Lorca, his album includes five songs from the play Yerma, as well as pieces from Doña Rosita, How Five Years Pass, and Diván del Tamarit. This work follows Omega (1996), recorded with the Granada Blues group Lagartija Nick, which contained musical arrangements mostly of Lorca's New York poems.

Flamenco World offer more detailed information about the enduring relationship between Morente and Lorca.

The legendary Camarón de la Isla has an album called La Leyenda del Tiempo (1979) which includes four songs based on poems by Lorca. Soy gitano (1989) contains another three.

Lorca has always been highly appreciated among gypsies, and gypsy artists have frequently included works of his in their repertoire. The double CD entitled Los Gitanos cantan a Lorca contains several of his poems set to music, including:

as well as songs from the plays, such as "Leyenda del Tiempo (Camaron), or the wedding song (la tierra tiene la culpa) from Bodas de sangre (Pata negra); and versions of his popular songs (La Tarara by Camaron).

The Spanish singer-songwriter, Carlos Cano, has set all of the poems of the Diván del Tamarit to music as his particular centenary year tribute to Lorca, available on a double CD. 

Lorcura de brisna y trino, taken from the Sonnets of a Dark Love,  is the title of Manolo Sanlúcar and Carmen Linares' tribute to the poet.  

Ana Belen's tribute to Lorca on the occasion of his centenary, Lorquiana, also includes a CD of some of Lorca's poems set to music, amongst them "Pequeño Vals vienés" (Leonard Cohen's celebrated "Take this Walz") and "Son de Negros en Cuba".

More on Leonard Cohen's "Take this Walz"


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Lorca as Librettist.

The only libretto that Lorca wrote himself was Lola la comediante, dated 1923. Unfortunately, Manuel de Falla, in spite of making copious notes, never wrote the score for this projected light opera.

Nevertheless, Lorca's work seems to be as inspirational in the world of opera as it has been in the world of flamenco and popular song.

It is an interesting fact that two composers have chosen to write operatic works based on El Amor de Don Perlimplín con Belisa en su Jardín in view of the poets own comments likening this work to a piece of chamber music.

This work is also available on CD. Follow this link.

The Bolton-born composer Simon Holt has, in his own phrase, “been absorbing Lorca for 14 years” and had already produced a whole string of works inspired by the poet’s words when he embarked upon his Lorca-based opera, The Nightingale’s to blame, three years back.
So what is it about the Spanish bard that attracts him? “He just fires my imagination. His poetry makes more of an impact on my nervous system than any other poet I’ve ever read. In fact, I have got to the stage now where I don’t dare take a book of Lorca’s poems off the shelf, because immediate reaction of reading any of them is a compulsion to set it to music."
Trader Faulkner, The Independent, 20/11/1998

Holt's previous reactions to Lorca include Cançiones, three Spanish songs: a love song, a setting of Cançion de Jinete by Lorca, and a lyric. The two outer poems are anonymous but are cited by Lorca in his essay on Duende which could be roughly translated as the Creative Spirit.


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