Cristóbal Halffter

From Unearthing The Music

Cristóbal Halffter. Picture sourced from

Cristóbal Halffter Jiménez-Encina (born 24 March 1930) is a Spanish classical composer. He is the nephew of two other notable composers, Rodolfo and Ernesto Halffter.

Early years

Halffter was born in Madrid, but in 1936 his family moved to Velbert, Germany, to escape the Spanish Civil War. They returned to Madrid in 1939, and Halftter studied with Conrado del Campo at the Madrid Royal Conservatory, graduating in 1951 (Alonso 2001). He continued his studies, outside of his university education, with Alexandre Tansman and André Jolivet in Paris.


In 1955, Halffter was appointed conductor of the Falla orchestra. He forged a successful career as composer and conductor, writing music combining traditional Spanish elements with avant-garde techniques. His neoclassical Piano Concerto (1953) won the National Music Prize in 1954 (Alonso 2001). In 1961 he became Professor of Composition at the Royal Conservatory of Madrid, where he became Director in 1964, but remained there only until 1966 (Kennedy 2006). Among his notable pupils are Jean-Luc Darbellay (Anon. & n.d.(b)), David Philip Hefti (Anon. & n.d.(c)), and Javier Jacinto (Jacinto 2008).

During the 1960s and 1970s, Halffter composed a number of works related to human rights, including the 1968 choral work Yes, speak out, yes (Cummings n.d.). Between 1976 and 1978 he was president of the Spanish section of the ISCM (International Society for Contemporary Music), and the following year he became the artistic director of the Electronic Music Studio at the Heinrich Strobel Foundation in Freiburg.

He was awarded Spain's highest award for composition, the Premio Nacional de Música, in 1989 (Alonso 2001). Also he has received the 2009 BBVA Foundation Frontiers of Knowledge Award in Contemporary Music (Anon. 2009).

Halffter's works include the opera Don Quijote (2000) (Robés, Halffter, Amorós, and Cervantes 2004). His second opera, Lazarus, was premiered in 2008 at the Kiel Opera House to celebrate its centenary (Reininghaus 2008). A third opera, Schachnovelle, with a libretto by Wolfgang Haendeler after the eponymous novel by Stefan Zweig, was scheduled to premiere at the same house in May 2013 (Anon. n.d.).

Cristóbal Halffter is regarded by some authors as the most important Spanish composer of the generation of composers designated the Generación del 51 (Alonso 2001; Perez Castillo 2001).

His early works denote a rather nationalistic influence, but little by little he evolved towards a more avant-garde style, assuming the most modern characteristics of his time into his own personal language. It mixes atonality, dodecaphonism, serialism, concrete, electronic music, and also the use of classical forms.

Selected works

  • Concerto for piano and orchestra (1953)
  • String Quartet no. 1 (1955)
  • Tres piezas, for string quartet (1956)
  • Introducción, fuga y finale, for piano (1957)
  • Codex I for guitar (1963)
  • Líneas y puntos, for 20 wind instruments and electroacoustics (1966)
  • Anillos, for orchestra (1966)
  • Cantata Symposium (1966)
  • Yes, speak out, yes, cantata (1966)
  • Líneas y puntos, for 20 wind instruments and tape (1967)
  • Noche pasiva del sentido, for soprano, two percussionists and 4 tape recorders (1970)
  • String Quartet no. 2 "Mémoires" (1970)
  • Llanto por las víctimas de la violencia, for chamber group and electroacoustics (1971)
  • Platero y yo, for choir, soloists, and narrator, based on the poem by Juan Ramón Jiménez (1974)
  • Cello Concerto no. 1 (1974)
  • Elegía de la muerte de tres poetas españoles (1975)
  • Variaciones sobre la resonancia de un grito, for 11 instruments, tape, and live electronics (1976–77)
  • String Quartet no. 3 (1978)
  • Officium defunctuorum, for orchestra and chorus (1979)
  • Violin Concerto no. 1 (1979)
  • Fantasia sobre una sonoridad de G. F. Haendel, for string orchestra (1981)
  • Ricercare, for organ (1981)
  • Versus (1983)
  • Paráfrasis, for orchestra (1984)
  • Cello Concerto no. 2 ("No queda más que el silencio") (1985)
  • Tiento del primer tono y batalla imperial, for large orchestra (1986)
  • Piano Concerto (1987–88)
  • Fandango, for cello octet (1989)
  • Fractal, for saxophone quartet (1990)
  • Violin Concerto no. 2 (1990–91)
  • Preludio para Madrid '92, for chorus and orchestra (1991)
  • Siete cantos de España (1992)
  • Veni Creator Spiritus, for mixed choir, ensemble choir, 12 brass instruments, and percussion (1992)
  • Daliniana, for orchestra (1994)
  • Don Quixote, opera (2000)
  • Attendite, for cello octet (2003)
  • String Quartet no. 7 Espacio de silencio (2007)


  1. Alonso, Gonzalo. 2001. "Halffter: (3) Cristóbal Halffter (Jiménez)". The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians, second edition, edited by Stanley Sadie and John Tyrrell. London: Macmillan Publishers.
  2. Anon. 2009. "Contemporary Music 2009: Cristóbal Halffter". Fundación BBVA website (accessed 24 May 2015).
  3. Anon. n.d. "EvS Music Foundation "Schachnovelle" – Composition Commission issued to Cristóbal Halffter: Theater Kiel" (accessed 26 June 2012).
  4. Anon. n.d.(b). "Darbellay, Jean-Luc" (accessed 23 November 2015).
  5. Anon. n.d.(c). “David Philip Hefti *13.4.1975”. Composer A–Z on Edition Peters Group website (archive from 11 March 2016, accessed 2 November 2016).
  6. Cummings, Robert. n.d. "Cristóbal Halffter". AllMusic. Retrieved 23 November 2015.
  7. Jacinto, Javier. 2008. "Biography" (accessed 23 November 2015)
  8. Kennedy, Michael. 2006. "Halffter, Cristóbal". The Oxford Dictionary of Music, second edition. Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-861459-4.
  9. Perez Castillo, Belen. 2001. "Spain, §I: Art music: 6. 20th century". The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians, second edition, edited by Stanley Sadie and John Tyrrell. London: Macmillan Publishers.
  10. Robés, José Antonio, Cristóbal Halffter, Andrés Amorós, and Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra. 2004. Así se hace una ópera: Don Quijote, Cristóbal Halffter. Barcelona: Lunwerg Editores. ISBN 84-7782-835-0.

Further reading

  • Andraschke, Peter. "Traditionsmomente in Kompositionen von Christóbal Halffter, Klaus Huber und Wolfgang Rihm". In Die neue Musik und die Tradition. Sieben Kongress-Beiträge und eine analytische Studie, edited by Reinhold Brinkmann, 130–52. Mainz: Schott.
  • Boulez, Pierre, Josef Häusler, and Cristóbal Halffter. 1985. Uber Répons: ein Interview mit Josef Häusler; Cristóbal Halffter: Variationen über das Echo eines Schreis: eine Analyse. Kassel: Bärenreiter. ISBN 3-7618-0761-9.
  • Briner, Andres. 1986. "Menschlichkeit und Gewalt: Zum Werk von Cristóbal Halffter". In Komponisten des 20. Jahrhunderts in der Paul Sacher Stiftung, edited by Jörg Meyer Jans, 393–400. Basel: Paul Sacher Stiftung.
  • Casares Rodicio, Emilio. 1980. Cristóbal Halffter. Colección Ethos-Música 3. Oviedo: Departamento de Arte-Musicología, Servicio de Publicaciones, Universidad de Oviedo. ISBN 84-7468-039-5.
  • Charles Soler, Agustín. 1992. "La universalidad de un lenguaje, confrontación de dos obras: Debla y Preludio para Madrid 92 de Cristóbal Halffter". Nassarre: Revista Aragonesa de Musicología 8, no. 1:9–64.
  • Charles Soler, Agustín. 2002. Análisis de la música española del siglo XX: En torno a la Generación del 51. Valencia: Rivera.
  • Hermann Danuser. 1986. "Cristóbal Halffter: Ein Komponist engagierter Musik". Dissonanz, no. 10.
  • Danuser, Hermann. 1987. "Cristóbal Halffter: Un ejemplo de la nueva música comprometida", translated by Bernardo Martínez. In España en la música de occidente, 2 vols., edited by José López-Calo, Emilio Casares Rodicio, and Ismael Fernández de la Cuesta, 2: 475–77. Madrid: Ministerio de Cultura. ISBN 84-505-5046-7.
  • Daschner, Hubert. 1993. "Líneas y puntos von Cristóbal Halffter: Voraussetzungen, Entstehung, Folgen". In Quellenstudien. II: Zwölf Komponisten des 20. Jahrhunderts, edited by Felix Meyer, 149–68. Veröffentlichungen der Paul Sacher Stiftung, no. 3. Winterthur: Amadeus-Verlag. ISBN 3-905049-57-0.
  • Daschner, Hubert. 2000. Spanische Musik auf der Höhe ihrer Zeit: Cristóbal Halffter. Saarbrücken: Pfau-Verlag. ISBN 3-89727-077-3.
  • Daschner, Hubert. 2001. "Cristóbal Halffter und die Spanische Musik nach dem Zweiten Weltkrieg". In An den Rändern Europas: Ein internationales Festival mit Musik des 20. Jahrhunderts—Konzerthaus, Kunstforum, Musikverein, Odeon, WUK Kulturabteilung: 31. Oktober bis 30. November 1998, edited by Marie-Therese Rudolph and Berno Odo Polzer, Saarbrücken: Pfau-Verlag. ISBN 978-3-89727-153-1.
  • Dibelius, Ulrich [de]. 2000. "Ein spanischer Weltbürger: Der Komponist Cristóbal Halffter". In Wien Modern: 27. Oktober bis 26. November 2000 – Elektronik, Raum, 'musique spectrale' – Ein Festival mit Musik unserer Zeit, edited by Berno Odo Polzer, translations by Elfi Cagale, Silva Manfrè, and Martin Kaltenecker, 137–40. Saarbrücken: Pfau-Verlag. ISBN 3-89727-131-1.
  • Fernández-Cid, Antonio. 1984. "Cristóbal Halffter y Antón García Abril". Ritmo, no. 541:28.
  • Halffter, Cristóbal. 1977. Cristobal Halffter. Zodiaque. Cahiers de l'atelier du Cam Ministry, ue 111. St. Liger Vanbau, Abbaji Sainte Marie de la Premequi-vore.
  • Gan Quesada, Germán. 2003. "La obra de Cristóbal Halffter: Creación musical y fundamentos estéticos". PhD diss., Universidad de Granada.
  • Gan Quesada, Germán. 2007. "Tópico folklórico, tradición e innovación en un ballet 'español': Jugando al toro de Cristóbal Halffter". Revista de Musicología 30, no. 1 (June) 181–206.
  • Gojowy, Detlef [de]. 1974. "Spanien rückt ins Blickfeld". Melos: Jahrbuch für zeitgenössische Musik 41, no. 5 (September–October): 271–77.
  • Hochradner, Thomas. 2001. "Transformationen: Cristóbal Halffter und der Gedanke der Apokalypse". In Apokalypse: Symposion 1999, edited by Carmen Ottner, 296–311. Studien zu Franz Schmidt 13. Vienna: Doblinger. ISBN 3-900695-54-7.
  • Kassel, Matthias. 1998. "Cristóbal Halffter: Variation[en] über das Thema eSACHERe (1975) ". In Settling New Scores: Music Manuscripts from the Paul Sacher Foundation, edited by Felix Meyer, foreword by Charles E Pierce, Jr. and Paul Sacher, 223–25. Mainz: Schott. ISBN 3-7957-0347-6.
  • Lewin-Richter, Andrés. 1985. "La música electroacústica a Catalunya". Revista Musical Catalana, 6 (April): 27–29.
  • Mâche, François-Bernard. 1978. "Les mal entendus. Compositeurs des années 70". La Revue musicale, nos. 314–315:166.
  • Marco, Tomás. 1972. Cristóbal Halffter. Madrid: Servicio de Publicaciones del Ministerio de Educación y Ciencia.
  • Medina Álvarez, Ángel. 1996. "Apuntes sobre la recepción de la música abierta en España". Anuario musical: Revista de Musicología del C.S.I.C. 51:217–32.
  • Mosch, Ulrich. 1991. "Vom Neoklassizismus zur Avantgarde: Cristóbal Halffters Weg zur Neuen Musik". Neue Zürcher Zeitung 212, no. 231 (5–6 October): 69–70.
  • Oehrlein, Josef. 1982. "Kettenklirren für die Freiheit. Musik versus Diktatur: Der spanische Komponist Cristóbal Halffter". Musik und Medizin 2:61–68.
  • Reininghaus, Frieder [de]. 2008. "Generalprobe für die allgemeine Auferstehung: Zur Uraufführung von Cristóbal Halffters Lazarus in Kiel". Neue Zeitschrift für Musik 169, no. 4 (July–August): 70.
  • Reverter, Arturo. 1987. "Cristóbal Halfter habla de sus Tres poemas de lírica española". Scherzo: Revista de Música, no. 12 (February): 78–79.
  • Rodríguez, María del Mar. 1993. "Entrevista sobre educación musical con...Cristóbal Halffter: Los conservatorios no pueden estar anclados en el pasado". Música y educación: Revista trimestral de pedagogía musical 6, no. 1 (April): 9–14.
  • Romero, Ernesto. 2002. "Le Quichotte de Cristóbal Halffter: Texte et partition au service d'une nouvelle quête indentitaire". In Textuel. 41 (2002): Texte et partition, edited by Julia Kristeva with an introduction Arthur Thomassin, 185–99. Paris: Université de Paris VII [Denis Diderot].
  • Ros, Enrique A. 1991. "'Kultur ist Beunruhigung': Der spanische Komponist Cristóbal Halffter". Neue Zeitschrift für Musik 152, no. 6 (June): 36–41.
  • Sagastume, Manu. 1996. "La Generación del 51". Kantuz, no. 32 (July–August): 27.
  • Ulm, Renate. 1995. "Cristóbal Halffter: Tradition ist das, was von der Kultur einer Zeit übriggeblieben ist". In Eine Sprache der Gegenwart: Musica Viva 1945–1995, edited by Renate Ulm, 325–31. Mainz: Schott. ISBN 3-492-18361-1 (cloth); ISBN 3-7957-8361-5 (pbk).
  • Vega Toscano, Ana Maria. 1989. "Cristóbal Halffter: Un luchador en mil fuentes". Ritmo, no. 600 (June): 12–13.

External links