Carlos Villar-Taboada

Universidad de Valladolid, Spain;


The musical career of Rodolfo Halffter (1900-1987) is one of the most unique among the composers of his time. He is considered one of the main musicians of the Spanish “Group of the Eight”, that, imitating the neoclassicist avant-gardism guided by Manuel de Falla (1876-1946), and close to the environment of the Generation of ’27, transformed the conservative Spanish nationalism. Ideologically committed to the Second Spanish Republic, he was forced into exile after the Civil War (1936-1939). In Mexico, Halffter continued to expand his personal creative adventure, focusing in a very personal way on the research of new techniques for his adopted country: the twelve-tone method, advocated by Schoenberg and his disciples of the Second Viennese School. In fact, his pianistic Tres hojas de álbum (1953) was considered the first dodecaphonic composition both in Mexico and in Spain –despite Roberto Gerhard’s previous pieces. Rodolfo Halffter developed an important teaching work for the new generations of Mexican composers and contributed to revitalize this cultural environment in favor of contemporary musical creation, supporting the creation of associations and institutions specialized in its dissemination. During that time, he produced an increasingly experimental oeuvre, favorably evaluated by critics despite the relatively shortage of his catalogue of works. One of its most frequent features consists of a an almost constant identity debate between his different artistic references; those of Spanish nationalism, from a very personal perspective: he looked to the historical musical past of the Golden Centuries (16th to 18th Centuries), but also to the folkloristic traditions mainly of Andalusian flavor, and to the avant-garde represented by dodecaphony, musical expression of the lack of artistic prejudices in America. With this ability to integrate in a highly personal language, his dialogues with music of the past, the echoes of the various Spanish folkloric traditions and an original reading of the twelve-tone method, Halffter’s inspiration created a short but very selective list of works, many of them for chamber groups and soloistic instruments. Among these compositions, Capricho, op. 40, for solo violin, is one of his later samples (1978) of the aforementioned: it reconciles a historical topic (the capriccio) tied to a freedom of approach, with the innovative bias of the twelve-tone method, taken since an unorthodox point of view This paper consists of an analytical study that combines both Forte’s Pitch-Class Set Theory and Perle’s twelve-tone principles with Ratner’s and Agawu’s Topic Theory.

Keywords: Rodolfo Halffter (1900-1987); Twelve-Tone Music; Topic Theory.


Carlos Villar-Taboada Musicologist, specialized in music analysis (Pitch-Class Set Theory and Topic Theory) of Hispanic music since 19th Century onwards –mainly Spanish and Cuban. Academic training with short research stays on contemporary music and music analysis (1998-2001) at the Université de Paris IV-Sorbonne and IRCAM (Paris), and the Columbia University (New York). Since 2007, he works as Senior Lecturer in Musicology at the Universidad de Valladolid (Spain), where he holds the Chair of the Musicology PhD Program. He has given seminars on music analysis at several Spanish universities, and he has directed Master thesis and PhD dissertations on relevant figures and events of the Spanish music in Contemporary Age. He collaborated in the organization of the conferences Música y Filosofía: siglos XIX-XX (1999-2007) and Joaquín Rodrigo y la música española (2003-2007), while currently directs the Jornadas de Investigación Musicológica: siglos XIX-XXI and, more recently, Tópicos en la música hispana (siglos XVIII-XXI) (UVa, 2022).