In 1914 the famous gypsy flamenco dancer Pastora Imperio expressed to De Falla the desire to expand her repertoire with a gitanerìa: a pantomime of dance and song inspired by gypsy legends.
De Falla used a libretto by Gregorio Martínez Sierra. The first performance, which took place in Madrid in 1915, was a complete failure. In 1916 he reworked the piece, making numerous cuts and eliminating the singing part almost entirely. This new version was much more successful with both critics and audiences.
Manuel De Falla
In 1924 De Falla further reworked the piece by transforming El Amor Brujo into a ballet, which is how the piece is mostly known and performed today. Eventually, he wrote a fourth version for solo piano, which became a favorite of many pianists – Artur Rubinstein just to name one.
Manuel De Falla – An analysis of La Danza Ritual del Fuego
In case you don’t have it at hand, here’s a quick link to the score.
La Danza ritual del Fuego – which translates to The Ritual Dance of Fire – is apparently necessary to cast off the ghost of Candela’s husband. Candela is the main female character of the ballet.
Candela performs the Ritual Fire Dance causing the ghost to appear. She dances with the ghost but as they whirl around faster and faster, the ghost is drawn into the fire, vanishing forever.
Thanks to its obsessive rhythm and charming melody, it made its way into the symphonic repertoire as a standalone piece. Structure-wise it’s A-A1 plus a coda.
Let’s look at this closely: the piece starts with little cracklings of fire in the trills of the violas and then the clarinets. The double basses color the sound with their harmonic on E; and so does the first horn, with an added closed sound on bar 4; the cellos anticipate the stomping rhythm with a single pizzicato on bar 1 and bar 4.
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