A Spanish composer and conductor. He was the brother of Rodolfo Halffter.
Halffter was part of the Grupo de los Ocho (English: Group of Eight), which formed a sub-set of the Generation of '27.
At the age of thirteen, he started to compose music for the piano. A critic sent a copy of Halffter's string trio, "Homenajes", to Manuel de Falla, beginning a long relationship that included composition lessons from Falla. "Sinfonietta" is one of his earliest and best works; it shows the influence of Scarlatti. Later, he became more nationalistic with "Rapsodia portuguesa for piano and orchestra", composed in 1938, during the Spanish Civil War. In 1934 he became director and conductor of the Seville Conservatory of Music but, married to the Portuguese pianist Alice Camara Santos, chose to live in Lisbon during this period up to 1954.
When Falla died in 1946, he left his cantata "Atlantida" incomplete; Ernesto Halffter was asked to complete it. It premiered in 1962, but Halffter later revised it. The second version was completed in 1976.
In 1974, the Dali Theatre and Museum in Figueras, Spain, was opened. Halffter was a personal friend of Salvador Dali, and was asked to write a piece of music to celebrate the event.
He wrote music for a dozen films. Perhaps the most noteworthy is Don Quixote de la Mancha, the 1947 film version of Cervantes's classic novel. He also adapted and conducted the music for "El Amor brujo" (1967), based on the ballet by Falla. It was directed by Francisco Rovira Beleta, was nominated for an Oscar and features guitarist Narciso Yepes.