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Joaquin Rodrigo

Folkloric Traditions For Classical Guitar

"Joaquin Rodrigo - Popularly known as the composer of the famous Concierto de Aranjuez"

He was perhaps one of the greatest composers of the 20th century. Borrowing heavily from the Spanish folkloric traditions, his music was rich and sensual and honest in the sense that it stayed true to its origins. Born in 1901 in Valencia, Spain, Rodrigo was blinded at an early age due to a diphtheria epidemic. He always maintained that this was perhaps a stroke of "luck" as it allowed him to be totally involved in music in a way he may not have been if he didn't become sight-impaired. Thus, his position in guitar history was ensured.

He was well versed in classical literature and music and from an early age demonstrated that music was indeed his destiny. He studied as a young man with Paul Dukas in Paris for five years. Paris, being an important cultural center at the time for musicians, writers and painters, was the perfect place for his eager mind and talents.

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Sidebar - Did You Know?

Rodrigo had a secretary, Rafael Ibanez, who read all the important classical literature, philosophy and essays of time to him due to his blindness.


Back to Rodrigo...

It was in Paris while studying with Dukas that he met and befriended Manuel de Falla. This friendship lasted right up until Falla's death in 1946. Falla was always a supporter, championing his music at any opportunity. In fact, when Falla was admitted as a member of the French Legion d'Honneur, he insisted that his music be played on the same ceremonial concert program with his own. A great honour indeed!

At around the same time,  he met Manuel de Falla he married the Turkish pianist Victoria Kamhi. It was a very successful union lasting over 60 years until her death in 1997. She was by all accounts, a very talented musician. She also spoke several languages, which was great for the blind man when he travelled, around the world, to take up his many musical posts throughout his life.

A defining moment for the classical guitar came when he met the talented guitarist Regino Sainz de la Maza in 1938. Out of this seminal meeting of great musical minds was born the sublime Concerto De Aranjuez (composed in 1939). Indeed, Sainz de la Maza first performed this very important guitar work in 1940 in Barcelona. Perhaps it has become the most famous guitar piece ever written and is always popular with the general public and classical guitarists alike.

Because of the success of the Aranjuez concerto he was persuaded to write guitar pieces for other famous guitarists of the day. Namely: Segovia and later, Pepe Romero. Kay Jaffe, the noted musician and musicologist wrote...

"Although not himself a guitarist, he wrote with amazing sensitivity to the instrument's particular characteristics and demands...his Concerto de Aranjuez and his Fantasia Para un Gentilhombre for guitar and orchestra, are among the most important and popular contributions to the guitar repertory..."

Although he wrote mainly in the classical idiom, he was heavily influenced by the Spanish folk traditions. These folk melodies always filtered through into his music. One critic noted on the debut of the Aranjuez concerto that...

"It is impossible to find another Spanish work with such exciting picturesque qualities and formal perfection. For the first time in the history of our music the picturesque and the classical are fused, reciprocally mitigating and enlivening each other."

By the time he died in 1999, for his services to music,  he had received over 20 awards, medals and honorary doctorates. Although not a guitarist, he made the classical guitar shine in a way it hadn't previously done. He gave it more credibility as a true classical instrument, capable of complex, yet beautiful harmony and melodies that reflect the entire range of musical feeling and emotion.

Yes, Rodrigo's place in the annals of the greatest classical guitar composers of all time is forever secured. Check out this great little video on YouTube of Cameron O'Connor playing Fandango by Rodrigo...

 To get some excellent music by Rodrigo click here...

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For a biography of our man go here...

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