Joaquin Rodrigo

Biography

Born: Nov 22, 1901; Spain   Died: Jul 6, 1999; Spain   Period: 20th Century
Joaquín Rodrigo was one of the most honored of twentieth century Spanish composers. Several of his compositions, in particular the Concierto de Aranjuez for guitar and orchestra, have attained worldwide fame.
Blind from the age of three due to diphtheria, Rodrigo undertook early musical studies under Francisco Antich in Valencia (1920-1923) and Paul Dukas at the École Normale de Musique in Paris (1927-1932). While in Paris, Rodrigo
Read more befriended many of the great composers of the time, and received particular encouragement from his fellow Spaniard Manuel de Falla. In 1933 he married the Turkish pianist Victoria Kamhi; they remained inseparable companions until her death in 1997.
After 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 -- with Maurice Emmanuel at the Paris Conservatoire and with André Pirro at the Sorbonne. Some of the most difficult years in Rodrigo's life were in the late 1930s during the Spanish Civil War: his scholarship was cancelled, and he and his wife lived in France and Germany, 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.
Rodrigo started composing in 1923, and won a National Prize in 1925 for his Cinco Piezas Infantiles for orchestra. (Due to his blindness, Rodrigo always composed in Braille, and later painstakingly dictated the music to a copyist.) But his real breakthrough as a composer was with the Concierto de Aranjuez (1940, for guitar and orchestra), which was acclaimed from its first performance in Barcelona. Rodrigo was quickly recognized as one of Spain's great composers, and the awards and commissions started to roll in. In 1947, the Manuel de Falla Chair was created for him at the University of Madrid, where he taught music history for many years. He was much in demand as a pianist and lecturer, traveling to Europe, Central America, the U.S., Israel, and Japan. Many of the world's great instrumentalists commissioned concertos of him, and he eventually wrote works for, among others, guitarist Andrés Segovia, flutist James Galway, harpist Nicanor Zabaleta, and cellist Julian Lloyd Webber.
In 1953, he was awarded the Cross of Alfonso X the Wise by the Spanish government, and as part of the celebration of his ninetieth birthday in 1991, Rodrigo was raised to the nobility by King Juan Carlos I with the title "Marqués de los jardines de Aranjuez." He was ultimately given Spain's highest international honor, the Prince of Asturias Prize for the Arts, in 1996. The government of France also recognized Rodrigo's importance, making him a Chevalier de la Légion d'honneur in 1960 and promoting him to Commandeur des Arts et des Lettres in 1998. By the end of his life, he had also received six honorary doctorates from universities worldwide. Rodrigo died in 1999; he and his wife are both buried at the cemetery at Aranjuez. Read less
Rodrigo: Concierto De Aranjuez; Fantasia Para Un Gentilhombre / Bonell
Release Date: 04/13/2010   Label: Royal Philharmonic Masterworks  
Catalog: 28200   Number of Discs: 1
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Work: Concierto madrigal for 2 Guitars

 

About This Work
Rodrigo began this two-guitar concerto in 1966, intending it for the husband-and-wife duo of Alexandre Lagoya and Ida Presti. The 1970 premiere, however, fell to Pepe and Angel Romero, who recorded it several years later. More a suite than a Read more traditional concerto, the Concierto madrigal falls into ten brief movements, many of them based on the anonymous Renaissance madrigal "Felices ojos mios" (Happy Eyes of Mine). The composer wrote that "the element that sustains [the work] is the variation. Each of the variations or episodes is indicated by the title, which gives a clue to its atmosphere or scenario, a delicate poetic sketching that imbues the whole score. At times, because of the origin of the theme, the episodes have a modal or archaic character; at other times, the melody that acts as a thread through the whole work is permeated by a much more popular feeling." All in all, the concerto is more akin to Rodrigo's similarly archaic Fantasía para un gentilhombre than to his more Romantic Concierto de Aranjuez.

The soloists gallop in during the opening "Fanfarre" (Allegro marziale), then the flute presents the madrigal theme over guitar accompaniment in the movement called Madrigal (Andante nostalgico). "Entrada" (Allegro vivace) transforms a fragment of the madrigal tune into a balletic duet. The ensuing Allegro vivace offers an antiphonal conversation between guitars, trumpet, and woodwinds based on the fifteenth century villancico "Pastorcito, tue que vienes, pastorcito, tu que vas" (Little shepherd, you who come, little shepherd, you who go). That tune is transformed into a fleet, urgent Andalusian dance in "Girardilla" (Presto); the movement's name is derived from a word for spin or pirouette.

The glittering "Pastoral" (Allegro), with suggestions of chiming bells, is interrupted by the fanfare from the first movement. Next, the "Fandango" traces that popular flamenco dance back to its more stately roots in the eighteenth century. The beautiful "Arieta" (Andante nostalgico) is by far the concerto's longest movement, with the madrigal theme now appearing in triple time over a hypnotic, descending accompaniment. The Zapateado (Allegro vivace) is a stomping Spanish dance pushing the soloists close to their limits of technique. The concluding "Caccia a la española" (Spanish hunt; Allegro vivace -- Andante nostalgico) is a similar but less frenetic movement, still with piquant harmonies, and briefly quoting Rodrigo's Concierto de Aranjuez before bringing back madrigal theme at the end.

-- James Reel Read less

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