Rodrigo, Joaquin (1901 - 1999)
The Spanish composer Joaquin Rodrigo, blind from the age of three, has enriched Spanish music in particular through his concertos for guitar, compositions for which he is best known abroad. Rodrigo studied for a time in Paris, where he spent the turbulent years of the Spanish civil war, his subsequent career largely centred on Madrid.
The best known work of Rodrigo is the Concierto de Aranjuez, for guitar and orchestra, written in 1939, closely followed in popularity by his Fantasia para un gentilhombre. Other guitar concertos include a Concierto madrigal for two guitars and a Concierto andaluz for four guitars. He has written concertos for other solo instruments, including the violin, the cello and the piano and a Concierto serenata for solo harp and orchestra, all in a style that has remained consistent throughout his career, both here and in his stage and vocal compositions. Recommended Recording Concierto de Aranjuez Naxos 8.550729
We return to Spain, where a vital school of nationalist composition emerged during the last quarter of the nineteenth century. Inspired by the example of Isaac Alb»niz, who abandoned a fairly neutral Romantic idiom for one that drew freely on the characteristics of Spain's native music, Spanish composers have effectively blended folkloric elements with sophisticated harmonies and instrumental colors. Early in the present century the torch of Spanish nationalism in music passed from Alb»niz to Enrique Granados, Manuel de Falla, Federico Mompou and Joaquin Turina. More recently it has been carried by Joaquin Rodrigo.
Born in the town of Sagunto, near Valencia, and blind from the age of three, Rodrigo studied in Paris between the two World Wars. Returning to Spain in 1939, he came to prominence the following year with the success of his Concierto de Aranjuez for guitar and orchestra. That work propelled Rodrigo into the front ranks of Spanish composers, and it has gone on to become one of the most widely performed concert pieces of the past century, though often in transcriptions for instruments other than the guitar. One of the most famous renditions was recorded by jazz trumpeter Miles Davis, who played a rather free adaptation of the work's second movement on his Sketches of Spain album.
Concierto de Aranjuez also crystallized Rodrigo's compositional style. With this work, the composer perfected an idiom in which the rhythms and melodic inflections of Spanish folk music mingle with his own tuneful thematic invention and a colorful but not overly lush manner of orchestration. The form of the piece is that of a Baroque-period concerto: three movements in a fast-slow-fast arrangement, with clear alternation between solo and orchestral passages in the outer movements. The central Adagio is a soulful arioso that conveys a distinctly Spanish feeling of bittersweet passion and romance. Of the work's title and character, the composer wrote: "Concierto de Aranjuez takes its name from the famous royal residence on the banks of the Tajo, not far from Madrid and the Andalusian highway, and in its notes one may fancy seeing the ghost of Goya, held in thrall by melancholia. . . . [I]n its themes there lingers the fragrance of magnolias, the singing of birds and the gushing of fountains, although any more specific description is absent."