Sagunto 1901 – Madrid 1999

Joaquín Rodrigo

Perhaps life regretted having left Rodrigo permanently blind at the age of just three during a diphtheria epidemic in his native town of Sagunto, in the province of Valencia. Born on November 22nd, the feast day of Saint Cecilia, he was the last of ten children in a family of landowners.
Rodrigo lived a long, almost centenarian life, blessed with endless honours and successes, surrounded by a sincere and loving family and the affection of friends.
Regarding the boundless popularity of the Concierto de Aranjuez (written in Paris in 1939) which has become the Concierto, par excellence, everything that could be said or written, has been done ad abundantiam. Its clever and well-balanced mixing – which appears to be completely spontaneous, as is frequently the case in masterpieces – of traditional and modern musical languages, the presence of passionate and warm melodies, as in the famous adagio, the constant reminders of classicism and its Spanish heritage, the not-so-subtle marriage of the popular with the cultured, the unconventional role the guitar plays with respect to the orchestra, taking much liberty and autonomy, audaciously contrasting it in a way never before heard. Still, all of these elements don’t explain the why even where there are all these same elements, the magic isn’t always there. But in the Concierto, the magic is there, and how. In this lucky piece, which has become an obligatory entry in the guitarist’s repertoire; the perfectly measured languages, which flow and mingle so cleverly are those of the great, European musical tradition. Just skim through Rodrigo’s biography, especially during his Bildungsjahre in the cultured and cosmopolitan Paris of the twenties, to uncover the names, dates and events that made milestones in the 20th century. Focusing only on the musicians: Paul Dukas, with whom he studied composition and instrumentation; Manuel de Falla, who godfathered his first steps; his other co-nationals, Mompou and Pujol; the important names in French music: d’Indy, Cortot, Ibert, Poulenc, Ravel, Milhaud; up to making stylistic contact with the other side of the Alps and Pyrenees, and even arriving at the language of another great 20th century artist, Igor Stravinsky. None of Rodrigo’s other, numerous concertos can boast of such popularity, with the possible exception of the very well-known Fantasia par un gentilhombre, written at the request of another great legend of the guitar in the last century, Andrès Segovia.

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