El Sombrero de Tres Picos Ballet Suite No. 2

Manuel de Falla

El Sombrero de Tres Picos Ballet Suite No. 2

G. 59 • “The Three-Cornered Hat Ballet Suite No. 1”

About this work

The second and by far more popular of the two suites drawn from Falla's celebrated ballet consists of three of the four lively dances that constitute the full work's second half. (The "missing" piece, "El Corregidor," appears in the first suite.) All three of these dances are directly based on Spanish folk rhythms, and, as always with Falla, the music is brilliantly scored.

"The Neighbors' Dance" is a seguidilla, a flowing gypsy dance that opens the second part of the full ballet. The strings carry the bulk of the melodic duty, although there are frequent interjections by the woodwinds and, most unusually, the trumpets. The primary material moves smoothly, but there are several episodes of more pointed rhythm. Altogether, this is quite a different piece from the more waltz-like seguidilla found in Georges Bizet's Carmen.

"The Miller's Dance" is a farruca. After a seemingly improvisatory introduction featuring the English horn, the main dance begins, with a characteristic four-beat pattern related to the soleá. The farruca originated as a men's dance, so Falla's version logically is assigned to a primary male character, and includes strutting, macho phrase groups that alternate with quieter, more lyrical sections. The final portion is a chugging, gradually accelerating figure reminiscent of a train gaining speed.

The aptly named "Final Dance" is a jota, a quick piece in triple time that progresses in four-bar phrases and is most common in Spain's Aragón region. After a few bars of ominous urgency, Falla's version breaks into a joyful, jittering dance that frequently splinters into melodic and rhythmic fragments heard elsewhere in the full ballet. This is dynamic music with frequent changes of mood, allowing for flexible, expressive rubato in concert (dancers prefer a steadier beat). Falla calls upon the full resources of his orchestra, making good use not only of the woodwinds, brass, and strings, but also of the harp and castanets.