At last – Joaquin Rodrigo( 1901-1999), surely the best known Spanish composer of our age. His Concierto de Aranjuez for guitar and small orchestra must be amongst the top ten concertos: played throughout the world and in many different versions (such as the brass band arrangement in the British film Brassed Off !). I heard John Williams play it in a concert in London’s Royal Festival Hall in the nineteen eighties, and joined in the ovation when Rodrigo himself rose to acknowledge the applause, even then a frail man with a stick and dark glasses. (John Williams will be playing the Concerto again in the Last Night of the Proms in the Albert Hall, London, in September – thereby redeeming the somewhat tribal jingoism of that strange event!). The work is a unifying experience for all those who love melody and form in modern music.
Rodrigo became blind at the age of three but even so and when quite young, he took lessons in composition with Francisco Antich in Valencia. When he was 26 he moved to Paris as a pupil of Dukas and later after his marriage to the Turkish pianist Victoria Kamhi, returned there to study at the Conservatoire and the Sorbonne.
During the Spanish Civil War he lived in France and Germany, and coming back to Madrid in 1939, was active there as composer, academic and music critic.
As the years progressed and his fame grew he toured widely, giving piano recitals and lectures as well as attending concerts and festivals of his own music. Various distinctions were awarded him and Alicante – the host city of euroresidentes – was amongst the many universities who gave him honorary doctorates. In 1978 he was elected as a member of the Academie Royale des Sciences, des Lettres et des Beaux-Arts, a place left vacant following the death of Benjamin Britten in 1978. During 1991 and 1992 a series of concerts throughout the world marked his 90th.
Some personal response to his music next time.