Lorca and music

Federico García Lorca, before publishing his first book in 1918, Impressions and Landscapes, was for his family and acquaintances a promising performer and pianist. Following a family tradition, repeated in different relatives on his father’s side, Federico had an evident musical vocation from his earliest age. There are testimonies that, before he could speak, he was already capable of humming certain melodies.

At the age of eight, when the family moved to the house in Valderrubio, Federico was able to remember a hundred popular songs and ballads. Although he knew popular music directly through his relatives and the servants working in his house, it was not until the family moved, in 1908, to the flat on the Acera del Darro -the Lorca’s first home in the city of Granada – when he began to study classical music with Antonio Segura Mesa (Granada 1842-1916), a modest composer of little recognition but who exerted a notable influence on him. Federico and his sister Concha used to go to his lessons at the composer’s own home in Escudo del Carmen street.

Lorca at his piano at the house on the Acera del Casino.
Lorca at his piano in the house on the Acera del Casino. / Photo: FGL Foundation.

The news of the appearance of his first book, paid for by his father, came as a surprise to many of them, who perhaps expected a sonata rather than a sonnet.

José Mora Guarnido describes Segura as an “old composer of unpublished operas and a failed artist” but who discovered Lorca’s “admirable native conditions”. His lessons in Harmony and Composition were not only technical, but extended to other enticements of musical life. “I would tell him about the lives, loves, sorrows and miseries of the great artists during the times of hope.” “Just because I haven’t reached the clouds,” he would tell him, “doesn’t mean that the clouds don’t exist.”

Until Lorca turned to writing, among the tertulia members of El Rinconcillo he was the only musician to participate in the meetings. In fact, Fernando de los Ríos met him at the Centro Artístico playing a Beethoven sonata. The news of the appearance of his first book, paid for by his father, came as a surprise to many of them, who were perhaps expecting a sonata rather than a sonnet.

Federico García Lorca tocando el piano.
Federico García Lorca playing the piano. / Photo: FGL Foundation

The meeting with Manuel de Falla in 1920 made him forever a writer totally influenced by music. In addition to his famous piano interpretations of which he left countless testimonies, Federico recorded the album of popular songs with Encarnación López Júlvez, La Argentinita. Lorca took extreme care of the music linked to his literary work.

Popular music through composition or harmonization were an obligatory complement to much of his work, the poetic (there is the Book of Poems, Songs or Suites) and also the dramatic. There are the choral songs of Blood Wedding, or that of the Washerwomen, the song of the Shepherd and the bacchanal of the pilgrimage of Yerma, or the couplets of the reapers in The House of Bernarda Alba.