Thursday, January 26, 2012

Music Library No. 11: A Wonderful Guitar Concerto

"The Spanish composer Joaquín Rodrigo (1901-1999), blind from the age of three, enriched Spanish music in particular through his concertos for guitar, compositions for which he is best known abroad. Rodrigo studied for a time in Paris, where he spent the turbulent years of the Spanish Civil War, his subsequent career largely centered on Madrid." Naxos

The Concierto de Aranjuez for guitar and orchestra is his most famous piece. I heard it performed with Ben Verdery last week in New York City with L'Orchestre des Portes Rouges. It exudes Spanish style and is one of those works that I give to teenagers and young men in their 20s. It never fails to please, but it really is a work for all ages.

The program note read:

"On the banks of the Tajo River outside Madrid, the 300-acre Gardens of Aranjuez are part of an 18th century summer palace of the Bourbon kings of Spain. Infected by diphtheria at the age of three, Rodrigo, was nearly blind for almost all of his life. It was this event, Rodrigo said, that turned him towards a life in music. A talented pianist who showed a flair towards the concerto form, Rodrigo wrote works for such soloists as the guitarist Andres Segovia, flautist James Galway, harpist Nicanor Zabaleta, and cellist Julian Lloyd Webber. The Concerto is meant to capture "the fragrance of the magnolias, the singing of birds and the gushing of fountains" – in short, all the beauties that a blind man, such as himself, could appreciate. Rodrigo's gift for melody is brilliantly infused with Spanish style dances in the baroque form that matches the formality of the old palace, while the dances of the first and last movement and the plaintive melody of the second, have their roots in older, more primal folk Spanish forms."

The complete concerto can be purchased for less than $4 as a download:

If you have a moment, listen to samples of some other performances. John Williams is a famous guitarist, so less expensive does not mean less good. Beware: there are 4 movements to the concerto; make sure you get all of them when you purchase.

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