Born in Barcelona, Spain, on September 22, 1933, he graduated from the "Conservatorio del Liceu" of that city and the Juilliard School in 1960. He studied with Vincent Percichetti, Aaron Copland and Igor Markevitch. Since 1970 he has been teaching at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, where he is University Professor of Composition.
Some of his best known works were written on a dramatic avant-garde style in the sixties ("Guernica," "María Sabina," "Steel Symphony"). He is credited with pioneering a blending of ethnic music with those avant-garde techniques later on, creating a very personal style starting with "Sinfonía en Negro Homage to Martlin Luther King" (1968, and "Homage to Casals and Sarasate" (1975). Balada has received several international composition awards.
Balada's works are being performed by the world's leading orchestras, such as the Philharmonics of New York, Los Angeles, Israel; the Philadelphia Orchestra, the Philharmonia Orchestra of London, the symphonies of Pittsburgh, Cincinnati, Detroit, Dallas, Washington D.C., Prague, Barcelona, Mexico; the radio orchestras of Leipzig, Berne, Madrid, Hanover, Moscow, Helsinki, Luxembourg, BBC, Jerusalem; the National Orchestras of Spain, Lyon, Toulouse, Marseille, Ireland etc... conducted by artists like L. Maazel, M. Rostropovitch, Fruhbeck de Burgos, Lopez-Cobos, Lukas Foss, Mariss Jansons etc.
He has been commissioned by many outstanding organizations in the US and Europe, including the Aspen Festival, the San Diego Opera, the Pittsburgh, Cincinnati and Hartford Symphonies, National Endowment for the Arts, Benedum Center for the Performing Arts, the Lausanne Chamber Orchestra. The Millennium of Catalonia, Sociedad Estatal del V Centenario, the National Orchestra of Spain, the Radio TV Orchestra of Madrid. He has composed works for artists like Alicia de Larrocha, the American Brass Quintet, Andres Segovia, Narciso Yepes, Lucero Tena, Angel Romero, and has collaborated with artists and writers like Salvador Dali and Nobel Prize winner Camilo Jose Cela.
A large number of his compositions are recorded on Naxos Records, Deutsche Grammophone, Albany and New World Records. Some of his recordings include "Steel Symphony" and "Music for Oboe and Orchestra" with the Pittsburgh Symphony conducted by Lorin Maazel, and the cantatas "Torquemada" and "Maria Sabina."
Balada's large catalog of works includes, in addition to chamber and symphonic compositions, cantatas, two chamber operas and three full length ones: "Zapata" and "Christopher Columbus." This opera was premiered in Barcelona in 1989 with Jose Carreras and Montserrat Caballe singing the leading roles and attracted international attention. The New York Times calls Balada's contribution "a gift to his native Catalonia" while the Washington Times calls the work "a masterpiece...; a landmark score in the lyric theater of our time." Mr. Balada has recently concluded a sequel to this opera: "The Death of Columbus."
Recent world premieres of his works include "Concierto Mágico for guitar and orchestra" with virtuoso Ángel Romero and the Cincinnati Symphony; a symphonic work premiered by the Pittsburgh Symphony conducted by Mariss Jansons, a cantata performed by the National Chorus of Spain and the Barcelona Symphony conducted by Lawrence Foster, "Folk Dreams" with the National Orchestra of Ireland, conducted by Colman Pearce, "Piano Concerto n. 3" by the Radio Berlin Symphony Orchestra and "Passacaglia" by the Cadaqués Orchestra.