Home » Uncategorized » Joaquin Rodrigo and his Concierto de Aranjuez

Joaquin Rodrigo and his Concierto de Aranjuez

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Joaquín Rodrigo-Vidre (November 22, 1901 – July 6, 1999) was a Spanish composer and a virtuoso pianist.whose music is among the most popular music of the twentieth century, particularly his Concierto de Aranjuez, considered one of the pinnacles of Spanish music and of the guitar concerto repertoire.  Rodrigo was born in Sagunto, Valencia, Spain, on November 22, 1901, and almost completely lost his sight at the age of three after contracting diphtheria. He began to study solfège, piano, and violin at the age of eight; harmony and composition from the age of sixteen. Although distinguished by having raised the Spanish guitar to dignity as a universal concert instrument and best known for his guitar music, he never mastered the instrument himself. He wrote his compositions in Braille, which was transcribed for publication by a copyist.

Rodrigo studied music under Francisco Antich, Enrique Gomá, and Eduardo López Chavarri at the Conservatoire in Valencia. His first compositions date from 1923, including the Suite for piano, Dos esbozos (‘Two Sketches’) for violin and piano, and Siciliana for cello. In 1924 his first work for orchestra, Juglares, was premiered in Valencia and Madrid, and he obtained a diploma in a national competition in 1925 for the orchestral work Cinco piezas infantiles for orchestra, which was later premiered in Paris by the Straram Orchestra.  In 1927, following the example of his predecessors Albéniz, Falla, Granados and Turina, Rodrigo moved to Paris to enroll at the École Normale de Musique, where he studied for five years with Paul Dukas, who had a particular affection for his Spanish pupil.  He married Victoria Kamhi, a Turkish-born pianist whom he had met in Paris, on January 19, 1933, in Valencia. After briefly returning to Spain in 1934, Rodrigo quickly won, with some help from Falla, the Conde de Cartagena scholarship that allowed him to return to Paris, to study musicology, first under Maurice Emmanuel at the Paris Conservatoire and then under André Pirro at the Sorbonne.

Rodrigo wrote his Sonada de adiós for piano in memory of Dukas in 1935. He soon became known as both pianist and composer, and became friendly with Honegger, Milhaud, Ravel and many other musical celebrities of the time, among them Manuel de Falla, whose advice and support would be decisive in his career.  However, some of the most difficult years in Rodrigo’s life were in the late 1930s during the Spanish Civil War when his scholarship was cancelled, and he and his wife lived and worked in Germany, Austria and Switzerland, virtually penniless. They made a meager living giving Spanish and music lessons at the Institute for the Blind in Freiburg. But by 1939, they were able to return to Spain and settled permanently in Madrid.  Their His daughter, Cecilia, was born on January 27, 1941.  Rodrigo’s earliest published compositions date from the 1940s. His most famous work, Concierto de Aranjuez, was composed in 1939 in Paris for the guitarist Regino Sainz de la Maza and premiered in 1940.  From that moment on Rodrigo was engaged in numerous artistic activities, both creative and academic.  In 1943 he received Spain’s National Prize for Orchestra for Cinco piezas infantiles (“Five Children’s Pieces”), based on his earlier composition of the same piece for two pianos, premiered by Ricardo Viñes.

From 1947 Rodrigo was a professor of music history, holding the Manuel de Falla Chair of Music in the Faculty of Philosophy and Letters, at Complutense University of Madrid. Notable students include Yüksel Koptagel, Turkish composer and pianist.  Also, he served as head of Music Broadcasts for Spanish Radio, music critic for several newspapers, and Head of the Artistic Section of the Spanish National Organization for the Blind (ONCE).  In addition, he was invited to undertake tours as lecturer and pianist throughout Spain and the rest of Europe, Latin America, the United States, lsrael, and Japan. Accompanied by his wife he frequently attended competitions and festivals dedicated to his music throughout the world.

The success of this concerto led to commissions from a number of prominent soloists, including Nicanor Zabaleta, for whom Rodrigo dedicated his Concierto serenata for Harp and Orchestra and adapted the Concierto de Aranjuez for Harp and Orchestra; Julian Lloyd Webber, for whom Rodrigo composed his Concierto como un divertimento for cello and orchestra; and James Galway, for whom Rodrigo composed his Concierto pastoral for flute and orchestra. In 1953, Rodrigo was awarded the Cross of Alfonso X the Wise by the Spanish government.  In 1954 he composed Fantasía para un gentilhombre at the request of Andrés Segovia. His Concierto Andaluz, for four guitars and orchestra, was commissioned by Celedonio Romero for himself and his three sons. None of Rodrigo’s works, however, achieved the popular and critical success of the Concierto de Aranjuez and the Fantasia para un gentilhombre

The government of France also recognized Rodrigo’s importance, making him a Chevalier de la Légion d’honneur in 1960.  Rodrigo was awarded Spain’s highest award for composition, the Premio Nacional de Música, in 1983. On December 30, 1991, Rodrigo was raised into the Spanish nobility by King Juan Carlos I with the hereditary title of Marqués de los Jardines de Aranjuez (Marquis of the Gardens of Aranjuez). He received the prestigious Prince of Asturias Award—Spain’s highest civilian honor—in 1996, awarded to a composer for the first time. His wife Victoria died in 1997.  He was named Commander of the Order of Arts and Letters by the French government in 1998.  Rodrigo died on July 6, 1999, at his home in Madrid at the age of 97, surrounded by his family and his daughter Cecilia, who is married to the distinguished violinist Agustín León Ara, succeeded him as Marquésa de los Jardines de Aranjuez.   Rodrigo and his wife Victoria are buried at the cemetery at Aranjuez.

My collection includes he following works by Joaquin Rodrigo:
Concierto de Aranjuez for Guitar and Orchestra (1939).

Fantasia Para un Gentilhombre for Guitar and Orchestra (1954).

—material selected, adapted, and edited from several different sources

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