Work of the Week - Joaquín Rodrigo: Concierto de Aranjuez
Joaquín Rodrigo‘s Concierto de Aranjuez for guitar and orchestra is arguably one of the most important guitar concertos ever written. This year marks the 75th anniversary of its 1940 première in Barcelona, and the piece still enjoys frequent performances around the world. Its success lies partly in Rodrigo’s technical mastery of the potential acoustic problems: he succeeds in making the solo guitar an equal counterpart to the orchestra.
Concierto de Aranjuez was composed in Paris in 1939, just before Rodrigo’s return to Madrid following the Spanish Civil War. With the piece Rodrigo intended "to provide a reminder of past times, the magnificent gardens of Aranjuez, its trees and its birds". The Palace of Aranjuez and its gardens, the 18th century summer residence of the Bourbon dynasty in Spain, now form a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
The first movement takes the bolero rhythm as its inspiration, with Rodrigo using pizzicato and arpeggio effects to produce a characteristically Spanish sound. The famous theme of the second movement is based on an old Spanish religious song, the Saeta, which is sung during Holy Week in Andalusia. The melody has Arabic, Jewish and Spanish influences and is often ornately decorated.
In 1939, standing there in my small studio in the heart of the Latin quarter, vaguely thinking about the concerto, I heard a voice inside me sing the entire theme of the adagio all at once, without hesitation. Immediately afterwards, without a break, I heard the theme of the third movement. There it was! … Where the adagio and the allegro were born of a supernatural inspiration, the first movement required more thought, calculation and determination. I finished the work where it should have begun. Paris, 1939. - Joaquín Rodrigo
Concierto de Aranjuez can be heard on 27th July in Chautauqua, NY as part of the Colorado Music Festival, and on the same day in Hersbruck, Germany. It will also be performed on 29th July at the Teatro di Verdura in Palermo, Sicily and in Manchester, UK and Washington, D.C. in September.
This summer’s edition of schott aktuell is dedicated to the 75 anniversary of the première. It will include more background information about the composer and his work, as well as a Palace of Aranjuez wall calendar for the 2015/2016 season. You can read schott aktuell online using the following link and order the calendar via e-mail: email@example.com.
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