Joaquin Rodrigo

Joaquin Rodrigo

Joaquin Rodrigo was a Spanish composer and virtuoso pianist of the modern era (Twentieth Century).

Joaquin Rodrigo was born on November 22, 1901 in Sagunto, Valencia, Spain. At the age of three, Rodrigo contracted a disease called Diphtheria, due to which he almost lost his eyesight. Fortunately, Rodrigo recovered and at the age of eight, he started taking regular lessons in the piano and violin. At the age of sixteen, Rodrigo’s music curriculum expanded to accompany lessons in harmony, composition, and solfege. He then went on to join the Ecole Normale de Musique in Paris, where he studied under the famous French Composer Paul Dukas. Rodrigo also studied under Maurice Emmanuel and André Pirro.

Rodrigo’s first began publishing his works around 1940, and in 1943, his composition “Cinco Piezas Infanities”, won the Spanish National Prize for Orchestra. Perhaps Rodrigo’s most famous work was his concerto for the guitar and the orchestra titled “Concierto de Aranjuez”, which he wrote in 1939. It was said that the work was inspired by the sheer beauty and the forces of nature at the spring resort gardens at Palacio Real de Aranjuez. Rodrigo’s wife, Victoria, also revealed in her autobiography that the inspiration for the second movement was the pure anguish that followed Rodrigo after the miscarriage in her first pregnancy. He also transcribed the opera for the harp and orchestra in 1974. The highly acclaimed concert of guitarist Regino Sainz de la Maza led to worldwide fame and popularity for Rodrigo, after which he was commissioned for many works.

Rodrigo’s future works included his “Concierto Serenata” for soloist Nicanor Zabaleta for the Harp and Orchestra. His “Concierto como un divermento” and “Concierto Pastoral” for the flute virtuoso, James Galway, were also prominent compositions. However, critics widely regard his “Fantasia para un Gentilhombre” to be his best work after his “Concierto de Aranjuez”. The “Fantasia para un Gentilhombre” was supposedly written for guitarist Andres Sagovia, who many thought was the Gentilhombre in the title. The composition was premiered in 1958 by the San Francisco Symphony Orchestra to a delighted audience.

He married the eminent Turkish Pianist Victoria Kamhi on January 19, 1933. The couple had a daughter together on January 27th, 1941.

Rodrigo was highly decorated for his works. Despite his Spanish National Prize for Orchestra (1943), he was honored with the highest award for composition in Spain, the Premio Nacional de MusicaI in 1983. Then, in 1991, he was granted a place in the Spanish Nobility on the order of King Juan Carlos I, whereby Rodrigo became the “Marques de los Jardines de Aranjuez” or the “Marquis of the Gardens of Aranjuez”. He was also a recipient of Spain’s highest civilian honor, the “Prince of Asturias Award of the Arts”, in 1996, three years before his death. Rodrigo’s greatness was also recognized by the French Government, as he was made a Chevalier of the Legion of Honor in 1960. In 1998, he was promoted to Commandeur des Arts des Lettres. In addition, he was given six honorary degrees from universities world over.

Rodrigo was also highly respected for upholding the tradition of the Spanish Guitar. Despite being heavily trained in orchestral composition, he wrote seven pieces for guitar and orchestra.

Joaquin Rodrigo died on July 6, 1999, in Madrid, Spain.