RODRIGO: Piano Concerto / Musica para un Jardin (Castilla y León Symphony Orchestra/ Daniel Ligorio/ Eckhard Steiger/ Max Bragado Darman) (Naxos: 8.557101)
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Joaquín Rodrigo (1901-1999)
Concierto para piano y orquesta (rev. Achúcarro)
Preludio para un poema a la Alhambra Música para un jardín
Homenaje a la tempranica Juglares
Joaquín Rodrigo was born on 22nd November 1901 in Sagunto, in the Spanish province of Valencia. A bout of diptheria left him blind from the age of four, yet this apparent misfortune would ultimately lead him to dedicate his life 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 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 (1942), 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 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 on that occasion. The 1950s also saw the composition of two stage works, the ballet Pavana real (1955) and the zarzuela El hijo fingido (195560). 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 Concierto heroico for piano and orchestra dates from 1942. It is a piece full of passion, requiring great virtuosity on the part of the soloist, and is dedicated to the Roman ruins of Rodrigos home town, symbolizing the destruction experienced by Spain during the Civil War of 193639. The energy expressed during the greater part of the concerto is transformed into serenity in the desolate Largo, a slow movement not unlike its counterpart in the Concierto de Aranjuez.
The Concierto para piano is a revision of the Concierto heroico realised by the pianist Joaquín Achúcarro, who wanted to achieve a better balance between the solo instrument and the orchestra, and to avoid some of the original repetitions. Perhaps the most noticeable change is the elimination of two extremely virtuosic cadenzas in the Largo. This version was first performed in the Palau de Valencia on 22nd November 1996, with Achúcarro himself as soloist and the Orquesta de Valencia, conducted by Manuel Galduf.
Preludio para un poema a la Alhambra was written in Paris in 1928 and is reminiscent of Falla. The atmosphere aimed at by the composer is described thus at the beginning of the score: At twilight a guitar sighs, and beyond, almost within the Alhambra, ring out the rhythms which drive the dance. String pizzicati evoke the guitar itself in this short symphonic poem, which is free in form and has an impassioned development, with the melody entrusted to the solo oboe in the lento section. The work was first performed in the Paris Théâtre des Champs-Élysées on 1st May 1930 by the Walther Straram Concerts Orchestra, conducted by Walther Straram.
Música para un jardín is an orchestration of Rodrigos two Berceuses para piano (Autumn and Spring) of 1935, to which the composer added the remaining seasons and a prelude and postlude. It depicts the life of a garden throughout the year and the effect of the different seasons on the plants therein, using simple, folk-based melodies. With a reduced orchestra, the Autumn Berceuse melody is given to the oboe and cor anglais; in the Winter section it passes to the clarinet above a horn ostinato; brilliance shines from the violins in the Spring Berceuse, while for Summer, the cellos take on a robust sonority. Allusions to the Spring in the prelude and postlude give the piece as a whole an optimistic slant. The work was originally written as incidental music for José María Hernández Sanjuáns eleven-minute documentary film about Madrids El Retiro park which was awarded first prize by Spains Sindicato Nacional del Espectáculo. The orchestral version was first performed at the Teatro Ruzafa in Valencia on 23rd February 1958 by the citys Municipal Orchestra under the baton of José Iturbi.
Homenaje a la tempranica dates from the composers years in Paris and was written for string orchestra. Its première was given in Paris in spring 1939, by the Orchestre Féminin, conducted by Jane Evrard, and Rodrigo later arranged it for full orchestra. The work is a tribute to Gerónimo Giménezs zarzuela La tempranica (1900), and its music is subtle and elegant. Although very short, only five minutes long, it is divided into a nostalgic Preludio, which introduces one of the principal themes of the zarzuela, and a vibrant and graceful Danza, with a lively, joyful finale. The première of the definitive version took place in Seville, in December 1939, with Jesús Arámbarri conducting the Orquesta Bética.
Juglares, composed in 1923, was Rodrigos first orchestral work. Again only five minutes long, this "symphonic essay" was the composers attempt to test his artistic weaponry while he was still in Valencia, before he left to continue his studies in Paris. The work has the characteristic clarity of that regions music and was praised by the influential critic López-Chavarri as a work of major significance. It has a tripartite scheme: Allegro, in A major, a melancholy Largo, in G minor, and then Tempo I. The first performance took place in 1924 in Valencia with the citys Symphony Orchestra conducted by José Manuel Izquierdo.
Enrique Martínez Miura
Translation: Susannah Howe