RODRIGO: Concierto in Modo Galante / Concierto de Estio (Asier Polo/ Castilla y León Symphony Orchestra/ Eckhard Steiger/ Max Bragado Darman/ Mikhail Ovrutsky) (Naxos: 8.555840)
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Joaquín Rodrigo (1901-1999)
Concerto in modo galante Concierto de estío
Concierto como un divertimento Cançoneta
Joaquín Rodrigo was born on 22nd November 1901 in Sagunto, in the Spanish province of Valencia; he was the son of a businessman and the youngest of ten children. A bout of diptheria left him blind from the age of four, but as a result of this misfortune he developed a strong internal world and ultimately decided to dedicate himself to music. In 1906 the family moved to Valencia, where Joaquín attended the local school for the blind. There he received his first music lessons and, on hearing Verdis Rigoletto, became convinced that his vocation was to be a composer. Between 1917 and 1922 he studied composition with Francisco Antich at the Valencia Conservatory. His earliest compositions date from 1922 and an orchestral work, Juglares, was first performed two years later. By then Rodrigo had come into contact with the new wave of avant-garde composers active in Madrid at the time, but on failing to win the National Music Prize in 1925 he decided to move to Paris, where he studied under Dukas. He married the Turkish pianist Victoria Kamhi in 1933 they were separated briefly before being reunited in Paris in 1935, Rodrigo having expressed his yearning for his wife in his Cántico de la esposa. The Concierto de Aranjuez, the work that established his reputation as a composer, was first performed by the guitarist Regino Sainz de la Maza after the end of the Spanish Civil War. There followed the Concierto heroico for piano (1943), the Concierto de estío for violin (1944), Ausencias de Dulcinea for bass, four sopranos and orchestra (1948) and the Concerto in modo galante for cello (1949): the central works of his catalogue.
During the Franco régime, Rodrigos works were the sole representatives of Spanish music abroad, at least until the appearance on the scene of the innovation of the Generation of 51, and his international renown reached its height in 1958 with the première in San Francisco of Fantasía para un gentilhombre. The guitarist Andrés Segovia, the works dedicatee, was the soloist. The 1950s also saw the composition of two stage works: the ballet Pavana real (1955), on the life of the sixteenth-century Valencian composer Luis de Milán, and the zarzuela El hijo fingido (195560, after Lope de Vega). The latter was first staged in 1964 but was then neglected until 2001 when it was resurrected as part of the composers centenary celebrations with a production at Madrids Teatro de la Zarzuela. Rodrigo was also awarded an honorary doctorate by the University of Salamanca in 1964, a significant recognition on the part of the academic world of his creative efforts. In subsequent years he became less productive, and the rise of a new generation of Spanish composers meant he was no longer in the limelight. Ironically enough, some of his more important commissions came from outside Spain, such as that for the symphonic poem A la busca del más allá (1976), which came from the Houston Symphony for the bicentennial celebrations in the United States. The flautist James Galway then commissioned a piece for his instrument, the Concierto pastoral (1978) another in Rodrigos famous series of concertos, one of which, the Concierto para una fiesta of 1982, would be his final composition, before his death some years later on 6th July 1999.
The Concerto in modo galante for cello and orchestra was written for cellist Gaspar Cassadó and dates from 1949. Although Rodrigo was somewhat reluctant to write another concerto at that stage of his career, he ultimately found the structure that suited him: an opening Allegretto grazioso followed by an Adagietto and a Rondo giocoso. The work draws its inspiration from eighteenth-century Spain and the music of Boccherini, and has a popular feel, along with touches of irony. Cassadó judged the concerto as an excellent work and a significant addition to the cello/orchestra repertoire ... its instrumentation is so economical as to make this one of the few scores in which the solo cello is never drowned out by the weight of the orchestra. The première took place in Madrids Palacio de la Música, on 4th November 1949, with Cassadó and the Orquesta Nacional de España, conducted by Ataúlfo Argenta.
The Concierto de estío for violin and orchestra is an earlier work, composed in 1943. In this case Rodrigo looked to Vivaldis violin concertos for his structural inspiration. In the opening Preludio, the exposition is entrusted to the soloist, as in the Venetian composers concertos. The principal theme, light and nimble, is based on the chord of E minor, the works home key. The secondary theme has the characteristics of a recitative and is played first by the woodwind then by the solo violin. The central slow movement, Siciliana, has a melancholy lyricism and consists of a set of variations, in the last few of which the theme is interwoven with the initial motif of the Preludio. The concertos cadenza is also to be found within this movement. The Rondino finale also follows a variation-based development, with a single straightforward theme, the falling arpeggio BG#E. The music in this final movement has echoes of a Catalan folk-song, but as it progresses there are moments of some complexity, with an unexpected polytonal sequence. A short passage of filigree writing for the soloist brings the work to a close. The concerto was first performed in Lisbon, at the Teatro São Carlos, on 16th April 1944, with the violinist Enrique Iniesta and the Orquesta Nacional de España, conducted by Bartolomé Pérez Casas.
Rodrigo gave the solo rôle to the cello once more in his Concierto como un divertimento (1981). Here the orchestration is very simple, although xylophone and celesta add colouristic details. The music has a typically Spanish atmosphere, in spite of the fact that there are no direct quotations from folk-tunes. The initial Allegretto has a bolero rhythm and the cello imitates the strumming of a guitar after the exposition the soloist encounters some extremely difficult passages. In the Adagio nostálgico, the orchestra creates a subtle background over which the cello plays in harmonics before introducing accompanied by the flute, clarinet and celesta a seductive melody based on an old folk-song. The cadenza requires a virtuoso performance, with seventh leaps and left-hand pizzicato. The final movement, Allegro scherzando, radiates joy and brilliance. At the première at Londons Festival Hall on 15th April 1982, Julian Lloyd Webber was the soloist, with the London Philharmonic Orchestra and conductor Jesús López Cobos.
The Cançoneta (1923) is a four-minute piece written by Rodrigo for solo violin and string orchestra before he left Valencia to further his studies in Paris. An elegant little work, with a clear impressionistic influence, it is based on a motif stated and repeated by the soloist while the strings simply create the musical background. It was first performed in Valencia in 1923 by the citys Orquesta Sinfónica conducted by José Manuel Izquierdo.
Enrique Martínez Miura
Translation: Susannah Howe