Joaquin Rodrigo (1901-1999)
Concierto pastoral Fantasia para un gentilhombre
Dos miniaturas andaluzas Adagio para instrumentos deviento
Joaquin Rodrigo was born on St Cecilia's Day, 22nd November,1901, in Sagunto, in the Spanish province of Valencia. In 1905 an outbreak ofdiphtheria impaired the young boy's vision and within a few years he lost everyvestige of sight. From the age of seven he attended the School for the Blind inthe city of Valencia, where, with his musical gifts becoming increasinglyapparent, he played the violin and piano, the latter being his favourite. Laterhe took composition lessons with Francisco Antich Carbonell, renowned organistand maestro at the local parish church. Having composed various apprenticepieces, Rodrigo was awarded an Honourable Commendation in 1925 in a nationalmusic competition for his orchestral work, Cinco piezas infantiles, firstperformed by the Valencia Symphony Orchestra two years later.
In the autumn of 1927, the young composer, following theprecedent of so many Spanish musicians, travelled to Paris, enrolling at theEcole Normale de Musique. His teacher, Paul Dukas, one of the masters of earlytwentieth-century French music, profoundly influenced Rodrigo, especially inaspects of orchestration. In 1928, the French President awarded Manuel de Fallathe National Legion of Honour. Rodrigo was invited to perform his own pianopieces at the ceremony, thus extending his growing reputation as composer andvirtuoso pianist. Around the same time, Rodrigo met Victoria Kamhi, a youngJewish pianist from Istanbul, the daughter of a businessman. Despite variousdifficulties, financial and otherwise, they fell in love and eventually marriedin January 1933, but a year later hardship enforced months of separation, adilemma resolved only when Rodrigo was awarded a prestigious Conde de CartagenaScholarship, enabling him to be reunited with his wife in Paris. In 1936disaster struck again when the Spanish Civil War began and the Scholarship fundwas no longer available. Eventually Rodrigo and his wife found refuge foreighteen months at the Institute for the Blind in Freiburg. In 1938 he returnedto Spain for a brief stay at a summer school in Santander, but failing tosecure employment, was forced to return once more in Paris. In 1939 Victoriasuffered a miscarriage, yet somehow, despite such tribulations, Rodrigo foundthe strength and inspiration to complete the Concierto de Aranjuez, a workwhich would change his life.
Rodrigo went back to Spain shortly before the start of theSecond World War. Life there was extremely difficult, but with the help ofcolleagues, including Falla, Rodrigo was soon offered sufficient employment toearn a reasonable living. After years of deprivation, the tide began to turnwith the premi?¿re in Barcelona of the Concierto de Aranjuez on 9th November,1940, followed by performances in other Spanish cities. On 27th January, 1941(the anniversary of Mozart's birthday), Rodrigo's daughter, Cecilia, was born.
Though there were to be many setbacks over the years,Rodrigo's reputation as a great Spanish composer now began to gaininternational esteem. Throughout his long life Joaquin Rodrigo wrote more thantwo hundred compositions, creating a prolific variety of orchestral pieces,concertos, songs and choral works, guitar, piano, violin, and otherinstrumental music, increasingly in demand and appreciated world-wide.
Concerning his Concierto pastoral, for flute and orchestra,Rodrigo has commented:
I composed this concerto, first performed in London inOctober 1978, for the exceptionally gifted flautist, James Galway. The work isdivided into three movements, the first being in classical form, with first andsecond themes, imposing exceptional difficulties on the soloist in the firsttheme...The second theme has a more pastoral character, reminiscent of popularValencian style and contrasting with the frenzied speed of the first theme.
The second movement is an 'adagio' which interrupts a brief'scherzo'. It comprises three themes, the first, nostalgic with short melismas,the second, brief and rapid in the register of flageolets, and the third, withmore repose. In this movement the cadenza can be found, as is customary in thismusical form. The third movement is a rondo with the air of pastoral dance...
The Concierto pastoral has proved to be an exciting andperennial addition to the flute repertory, attracting the finest soloists inwhat constitutes a challenging artistic and technical tour de force.
James Galway, the proud dedicatee of Concierto pastoral,also became fascinated by the possibilities of a flute transcription ofFantasia para un gentilhombre, originally for guitar and orchestra. When Galwaysought Rodrigo's permission to arrange the work for flute and orchestra, thecomposer willingly agreed, though he remained very attentive to the new score,suggesting appropriate amendments. This concerto, written for Andres Segovia,the guitar's greatest 'gentleman', and first performed by him in 1958, basedits inspiration on a selection of dances from a tutor by theseventeenth-century Baroque guitarist and composer, Gaspar Sanz. Rodrigo's art,which so often unites the glories of ancient Spanish music withtwentieth-century textures and techniques, offers a sumptuous orchestraltapestry encapsulating the expressive themes of another age in modern colours.
Rodrigo's choice of movements in Fantasia para un gentilhombrejuxtaposes energy and elegance, sensitivity and robustness. A dignified Villanois paired with the delicately imitative passages of the Ricercare, and theexpressive melodic contours of an Espanoleta complement the evocative Fanfareof the Neopolitan Cavalry. After the haunting Danza de las hachas comes theclimactic Canario, a vigorous zapateado (stamping of the heels), from theCanary Islands, spiced with a dazzling cadenza.
Some thirty years earlier, Rodrigo composed Dos miniaturasandaluzas (1929) for string orchestra, but he could scarcely have anticipatedthat the premi?¿re would be delayed seventy years until 22nd November, 1999.Here the introduction to Preludio (marked lento e cantabile), once againrecalls mysterious shades of the Spanish Renaissance, but a different vistasoon develops as Rodrigo's colourful sonorities create an essentiallyAndalusian mood. The second movement, Danza, captures the ear with rhythmicstrumming effects, evoking guitars, a device Rodrigo emulated in several of hisconcertos.
The splendour of Rodrigo's musical imagination is superblyrepresented in Adagio para instrumentos de viento (Adagio for windinstruments), first given in Pittsburgh in 1966 by the American Wind SymphonyOrchestra, to which it is dedicated. Rodrigo regarded this work as'architecturally in the shape of a sonata without development, with two themesone after the other in different tonalities, returning eventually in the samekey'. After the initial and quite extended lyrical statement, a brief outburst,signalled by crescendo drum beats, leads on to a thrilling, very robust changeof mood followed by urgent fanfares. Then the first theme returns with gentlenostalgia, slightly meditative and always profoundly Spanish. A trumpet callsuddenly disturbs such introspection, but this proves to be no more than ashort interlude as the piece progresses, after some moments of sound and fury,towards its essentially serene conclusion. Implicit throughout the work is thecomposer's subtle homage to the ancient tradition of the wind bands of