During his lifetime, Eduardo Toldrá was primarily known for his virtuosity on the violin and secondarily for his considerable skills as a conductor. Today, however, he is remembered by a growing number of admirers for his large and varied body of compositions, which includes a large number of songs, sardanas (a type of Catalan folk dance), works for piano, for violin and piano, for orchestra, and operas. Toldrá's style was quite conservative for its time, looking back to Granados and even earlier, and featuring lush melodies that often carried the colorful flavors of Catalan folk music. It may well have been that his conservatism, at a time when Stravinsky, Schoenberg, and others were taking bold new steps, sabotaged his career, at least on the international scene. Renewed interest since the late-twentieth century, however, may well lead to a full-scale rediscovery of Toldrá's music, especially of his songs.
Eduardo Toldrá was born in the Catalonian town of Villanueva y Geltrú on April 7, 1895. He was a gifted child whose father taught him on violin and instructed him in music theory. Toldrá's first advanced training was at Barcelona's Municipal School of Music, where he studied composition and violin. His most important teachers there were Antoni Nicolau, Lluis Millet, and Rafael Galvez.
While playing in the school's orchestra as a student, Toldrá debuted as a violin soloist in 1912 in Barcelona. That same year Toldrá founded the Quartet Renaixement, a group in which he served as first violinist. In 1921 Toldrá departed the quartet and began teaching violin at his alma mater. That year, too, he composed Vistas al mar, for string quartet, and in 1922 one of his best-known works, the Six Sonnets, for violin and piano.
In 1924 Toldrá turned to conducting: he regularly led the amateur ensemble Orquestra d'Estudis Simfònics until 1935. He often freelanced on the podium thereafter and remained active as a concert violinist and composer, as well. From 1944 Toldrá served as chief conductor of the newly formed Municipal Orchestra of Barcelona. Following the war he regularly appeared as guest conductor throughout Spain and other parts of Europe.
In 1958 Toldrá was awarded the Grand Prix du Disque de l'Académie Charles Cros for his recording of Manuel de Falla's Three Cornered Hat. Among Toldrá's more notable late works is Popular Spanish Songs (7) (1959). Toldrá died in Barcelona on May 31, 1962.