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The first movement of his Sinfonietta seems to fall from the pen of a young man completely won over by Stravinsky's neo-classical Pulcinella [listen -- track 6, 0:01-0:53]. It made a notable impression on the musical hierarchy of the time, particularly de Falla himself who had just completed his Scarlatti-like Harpsichord Concerto and was instrumental in acquiring a publishing contract from Eschig for the young composer. The Sinfonietta encouraged the hope that a new national school of Spanish work, growing from its classical and folk roots, was emerging. Its Adagio seems to seek a more personal voice in a series of variants on an elegantly peaceful opening woodwind line, rising at its peak to a strong emotional outpouring before resting again -- a very neatly constructed movement [listen -- track 7, 6:42-7:34]. Elegance is also an appropriate stylistic description for its Minuetto, blending stately episodes with more vigorous dancing [listen -- track 8, 1:27-2:10].

The Finale, again colourfully dance-like, deserves two short quotes, the principal ideas reminiscent of the circus [listen -- track 9, 0:11-1:07] and not only shades of Stravinsky but an anticipation of Prokofiev too in the subsidiary ideas [listen -- track 9, 1:11-2:03]. This Sinfonietta is clearly the most significant and beautifully crafted of all Halffter's work and well deserves a much wider currency.

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Copyright © 6 April 2003 Patric Standford, Wakefield, UK


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