The Spanish composer Cristóbal Halffter Jiménez-Encina, born 24 March 1930 in Madrid, is the nephew of two other composers, Rodolfo and Ernesto Halffter.
In 1936, Halffter's family moved to Velbert, Germany, to escape the Spanish Civil War, but they returned to Madrid in 1939, and Halffter studied with Conrado del Campo at the Madrid Royal Conservatory, graduating in 1951. Outside of his university education, he studied with Alexandrea Tansman and André Jolivet. In 1955, he was appointed conductor of the Falla orchestra. He forged a successful career as composer and conductor, writing music which combined a traditional Spanish element with avant-garde techniques. His Piano Concerto won the National Music Prize in 1953. In 1961 he became Professor of Composition at the Royal Conservatory of Madrid, where he became Director in 1964 but remained only until 1966. Among his notable pupils are Jean-Luc Darbellay, David Philip Hefti and Javier Jacinto.
Commissioned by the United Nations to commemorate the 20th anniversary of the Declaration of Human Rights in 1968, he composed the cantata Yes Speak Out Yes for soloists, speakers, choirs and orchestra, which premièred in New York.
He was awarded Spain's highest award for composition, the Premio Nacional de Música, in 1989.
His works include Elegías a la muerte de tres poetas españoles; Officium defunctorum for choirs and orchestra; two violin concertos; two cello concertos – the second commissioned by the Baden-Baden orchestra for Mstislav Rostropovich; Tres poemas de la lirica española for baritone and orchestra commissioned by the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra; Concierto para piano y orquesta for Paul Sacher and the Munich-based Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra.
In February 2000 his opera Don Quijote was premièred at the Teatro Real de Madrid, making a strong impact on critics worldwide. In August 2003 his work, Adagio in Form eines Rondos was commissioned by the Salzburg International Festival. In May 2008, his second opera Lázaro was premièred in Germany at the Kiel Theater to commemorate the theater’s centenary. A third opera, Schachnovelle, with a libretto by Wolfgang Haendeler after the eponymous novel by Stefan Zweig, will première at the same house in May 2013.
Cristóbal Halffter is regarded as the most important Spanish composer of the generation of composers designated the Generación del 51.
24.3.1930 – Born in Madrid. Elementary school in Germany. Nephew of the Spanish composers Rodolfo and Ernesto Halffter
1947–1951 – Private studies of harmony and composition with Conrado del Campo and at the Real Conservatorio de Música in Madrid, where he graduated in 1951
1951 – Halffter began to work for the Spanish Radio
1955–1963 – Conductor of the de Falla Orchestra in Spain
1961–1966 – Professor for composition at the Real Conservatorio de Música in Madrid, which he directed between 1964–1966
1967 – On scholarship in the United States (Ford Foundation) and Berlin (DAAD).
1970–1978 – Lecturer at the University of Navarra; lecturer at the Internationale Ferienkurse für Neue Musik at Darmstadt
1976 – Prix d’Italia della RAI
1976–1978 – President of the Spanish section of the ISCM
1979 – Artistic director of the Studio for electronic music at the Heinrich Strobel Foundation, Freiburg
1980 – Member of the European Academy of Science, Arts and Humanities, Paris
1981 – Halffter was awarded the Gold Medal for Fine Arts by King Juan Carlos of Spain
1983 – Member of the Royal Academy of Fine Arts San Fernando, Madrid
1985 – Doctor honoris causa of the University of Léon
since 1989 – Principal Guest Conductor of the National Orchestra, Madrid
1994 – Montaigne-Award of the Hamburger Stiftung F.V.S.
1995 – European Prize for Composition in Karlsruhe
1998 – Doctor honoris causa of the Universidad Complutense Madrid
2000 – World Premiere of his opera Don Quijote at Teatro Real in Madrid
4.8.2003 – World Premiere of Adagio en forma de rondo for orchestra, commissioned by the Vienna Philharmonics, under Semyon Bychkov at the Salzburg Festival
30.12.2004 – World Premiere of Eritaña for orchestera, from Iberia by Isaac Albéniz, Orquesta Sinfonica de Madrid, under Rafael Frühbeck de Burgos, Teatro Real Madrid/E
5.2.2005 – World Premiere of Palimsesto for timpani and orchestra, Dresdner Philharmonie under Pedro Halffter, Alexander Peter, timpani, Kulturpalast Dresden/D
4.5.2008 – World Premiere of the opera Lázaro in Kiel/D, commissioned by the Theatre of Kiel, Libretto by Marset Juan Carlos, under Georg Fritzsch, Philharmonic Orchestra Kiel
2009 – Madrid's Auditorio and the Spanish national orchestra honour Halffter with a Carta Blanca
5.9.2010 – World Premiere of Ritual for orchestra at the Auditorium Grafenegg. c. Cristóbal Halffter, Tonkünstler Orchester
18.5.2013 – World première of the opera Schachnovelle (Libretto: Wolfgang Haendeler) at the Opera Kiel.
19.2.2014 – World première of the Concerto grosso for string quartet and orchestra at the Theater am Marientor, Duisburg.
29.6.2014 – receives the Kieler Kulturpreis 2014
23.9.2015 – Imágenes for orchestra premièred at the Auditorio Nacional de Música in Madrid
21.1.2016 – awarded the Grand Cross of the Civil Order of Alfonso X the Wise
23.9.2015 – Concierto for viola orchestra premièred in Kiel
Since 1970 Cristóbal Halffter has conducted many important orchestras in Europe and America. He lives with his wife, the pianist Maria Manuela Caro, in Villafranca del Bierzo/E.