Pepe Romero plays Joaquín Rodrigo’s “Concierto de Aranjuez”, a composition for classical guitar and orchestra by the Spanish composer. Danmarks Radio SymfoniOrkestret (Denmark Radio Symphony Orchestra) conducted by Rafael Frühbeck de Burgos. Recording date : March 21, 2013.
Written in 1939, Concierto de Aranjuez is Joaquín Rodrigo’s (November 22, 1901 – July 6, 1999) best-known work, and its success established his reputation as one of the most significant Spanish composers of the twentieth century. Composed in early 1939, in Paris, amid the tensions of the impending war, it was the first work Rodrigo wrote for guitar and orchestra. The instrumentation is unusual: rarely does the guitar face the forces of a full orchestra. Instead, the guitar is never overwhelmed, remaining the solo instrument throughout. Joaquín Rodrigo was born in 1901 in Sagunto, Valencia, Spain, and was blinded by diphtheria at three years old, which he later said turned him to an early life of music. Rodrigo studied music in Valencia and Paris. He began to study solfège, piano and violin at the age of eight; harmony and composition from the age of sixteen. He was a brilliant pianist, but unlike many believe, he wasn’t a master at the guitar.
The concerto consists of three movements:
- Allegro con spirito – a fandango-like dance movement showcasing the intricacies and delicacies of balancing a guitar and an orchestra.
- Adagio – a slow movement with haunting Spanish folk tunes and beautiful harmonies.
- Allegro gentile – a gentile movement light on its “toes”.
The Concierto de Aranjuez was inspired by the gardens at Palacio Real de Aranjuez, the spring resort palace and gardens built by Philip II in the last half of the 16th century and rebuilt in the middle of the 18th century by Ferdinand VI. Aranjuez lies just 30 miles south of Madrid and is a year-round favourite with weekenders flooding out of the capital.
In August of 1938, Joaquín Rodrigo was invited to give classes at the University of Menéndez Pelayo in Santander, which had just opened its doors. The title chosen for the three conferences was Instrumental music in the Imperial Courts of Spain.
In September of 1938, I was in San Sebastián on my return to France. (…) It was during a dinner organized by the Marqués de Bolarque with Regino Sainz de la Maza and myself. We ate well and the wine was not bad at all; it was the right moment for audacious fantasizing. (…) All of a sudden, Regino, in that tone between unpredictable and determined which was so characteristic of him, said:
-Listen, you have to come back with a ‘Concerto for guitar and orchestra’- and to go straight to my heart, he added in a pathetic voice: -it’s the dream of my life- and, resorting to a bit of flattery, he continued: -This is your calling, as if you were ‘the chosen one’.
I quickly swallowed two glasses of the best Rioja, and exclaimed in a most convicing tone:
-All right, it’s a deal!
The scene has remained engraved in my mind, because that evening constituted a pleasant memory in my life, and a moment of calm in those times that were not at all peaceful for Spain and indeed threatening for Europe.
I also remember -I don’t know why but everything related to Concierto de Aranjuez has stayed in my memory-, that one morning several months later, standing in my small studio on Rue Saint Jacques in the heart of the Latin Quarter, vaguely thinking about the concerto, which had become a fond idea given how difficult I judged it to be, when I heard a voice inside me singing the entire theme of the Adagio at one go, without hesitation. And immediatly afterwards, without a break, the theme of the third movement. I realized quickly that the work was done. Our intuition does not deceive us in these things…
If the Adagio and the Allegro were born of an irresistible and supernatural inspiration, I arrived at the first movement after some thought, calculation and determination. That was the last movement I composed; I finished the work where I should have started it.
–Joaquín Rodrigo, 1938