music.minnesota.publicradio.orgmusic Feature

Joaquin Rodrigo
1901 - 1999
by Rex Levang
July 1999
updated November 19, 2001


• Adagio (from Concierto de Aranjuez)

• Pepe Romero interview with Bill McGlaughlin
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(All audio is RealAudio 3.0 | How to listen)

Joaquin Rodrigo's 100th birthday is Nov. 22, 2001 (Thanksgiving Day, as it turns out). In honor of his centennial, we would like to draw your attention to an interview between Pepe Romero and MPR's Bill McLaughlin in which the secret meaning behind the second movement of the Concierto de Aranjuez, one of the most popular pieces of classical music, is revealed. We have added a transcript of the interview.

JOAQUIN RODRIGO, the Spanish composer who died July 6, 1999, at the age of 97, was a rarity among contemporary composers—a composer who was not only respected, but beloved. His compositions, with their bright instrumentation and vivid evocations of Spain, won the affections of music lovers all over the world, and one of them, the "Concierto de Aranjuez," became the most popular guitar concerto ever written.

Rodrigo was born in 1901. At age 3, he contracted diphtheria, which left him almost completely blind. Nonetheless he received musical training, and by musical Braille and, later, close collaboration with his wife, herself a professional musician, embarked on a full and busy career as a composer. Until the very last years of his life, he continued to compose—concertos, songs, pieces for piano and chamber groups.

But it was the "Concierto de Aranjuez," from 1940, that made him famous. (The city of Aranjuez was a summer resort for Spanish nobility, and for a while, Rodrigo's home.) It is far and away the most popular item in the slender repertoire of concertos for guitar and orchestra. But it also appears all over the musical spectrum, from TV commercials to jazz stylings, such as Miles Davis's "Sketches of Spain." In her memoir of their life together, his wife recounts incident after incident—a cabdriver in New York, a waiter in Tokyo - in which ordinary people all over the world come forward to pay their respects to the composer of the "Concierto de Aranjuez."

Listen to the Adagio, from Concierto de Aranjuez; Pepe Romero, guitar

At the time of Rodrigo's death, preparations for his centennial in 2001 were already underway. That observance will still take place—but now not only as a celebration, but also a remembrance of a composer who made such a vibrant, widely reaching contribution to 20th-century music

For many people, the most memorable part of the concerto is its intense, lyrical slow movement. In 1995, Pepe Romero talked with Bill McGlaughlin of Saint Paul Sunday, and revealed Rodrigos own explanation for this section.

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Photographs courtesy of the Joaquin Rodrigo Web site.

© Copyright 1999, Minnesota Public Radio.