RODRIGO: Concierto Madrigal / Concierto para una Fiesta (Asturias Symphony Orchestra/ Joaquin Clerch/ Maximiano Valdes/ Ricardo Gallen) (Naxos: 8.555842)
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Joaquín Rodrigo (1901-1999)
Concierto para una fiesta Concierto Madrigal
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 the city of 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 given 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 at the age of 97.
Rodrigos Concierto para una fiesta was written in 1982, the result of a commission from William and Carol McKay of Fort Worth, Texas, for a piece to be played at a party for their debutante daughters Alden and Lauri. The nature of the event undoubtedly affected Rodrigo: this is not his finest work. Echoes of his earlier masterpiece, the Concierto de Aranjuez, however, can also be heard in this piece, the only other concerto he was to write for solo guitar and he had certainly not lost the ability to write idiomatically for the instrument, as noted by Pepe Romero, who found this the most technically difficult work he had ever played.
The concerto is composed in classical form: the Allegro deciso has two themes, in A minor and D minor respectively, which according to Rodrigo himself have a "very Valencian" feel. The slow movement, Andante calmo, resembles its counterpart in the Concierto de Aranjuez, especially as its lyrical theme is entrusted to the cor anglais. The finale, Allegro moderato, with its Andalusian touches, brings the work to a jubilant close, very appropriately given the social context of the works première. This took place privately at the Ridglea Country Club, Fort Worth, Texas, on 5th March 1983. Pepe Romero was the soloist, with the Texas Little Symphony conducted by John Giordano.
Rodrigo wrote his Concierto Madrigal in 1966 for the guitar duo of Alexandre Lagoya and Ida Presti, although they would not in fact give its première. Written in ten short movements, this work actually has the structure of a suite, although the soloistorchestra opposition characteristic of the concerto remains present. The common thread which brings unity to material that might otherwise have been rather disparate in nature is provided by variations on the Renaissance madrigal O felici occhi miei (O happy eyes of mine) which exists in a multitude of instrumental arrangements. According to the composer himself, the individual movement titles point to the poetic atmosphere of the different episodes, some of which are more archaic in character, being imbued with the cadences and turns of the original madrigal, while others are more closely related to folk music.
The introductory Fanfare calls us to attention before we hear the theme of the Madrigal from the two soloists, then from the orchestra. The Entrada movement takes its rôle from the ballet world, while the antiphonal Pastorcico, tú que vienes, Pastorcico, tú que vas is a villancico. Girardilla contains one of the most virtuosic passages for the soloists, Pastoral exemplifies Rodrigos characteristic grace, and the Fandango transports us to the eighteenth-century world of Antonio Soler. The Arietta is symmetrical with the Madrigal, the Zapateado is a dance of great energy and the Caccia a la española brings the work to a close in a joyful atmosphere.
The Concierto Madrigal was first performed in Los Angeles on 30th July 1967 at the Hollywood Bowl in the presence of the composer. The soloists were Ángel and Pepe Romero, with the Los Angeles Symphony Orchestra conducted by Rafael Frühbeck de Burgos. This and later performances were received with unalloyed enthusiasm by United States audiences.
Enrique Martínez Miura
Translated by Susannah Howe