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8.557801 - RODRIGO: Concierto Pastorale / Fantasia para un Gentilhombre (Complete Orchestral Works, Vol. 8)
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Joaquín Rodrigo (1901-1999)

Joaquín Rodrigo (1901-1999)

Concierto pastoral • Fantasía para un gentilhombre

Dos miniaturas andaluzas • Adagio para instrumentos de viento

 

Joaquín Rodrigo was born on St Cecilia’s Day, 22nd November, 1901, in Sagunto, in the Spanish province of Valencia. In 1905 an outbreak of diphtheria impaired the young boy’s vision and within a few years he lost every vestige of sight. From the age of seven he attended the School for the Blind in the city of Valencia, where, with his musical gifts becoming increasingly apparent, he played the violin and piano, the latter being his favourite. Later he took composition lessons with Francisco Antich Carbonell, renowned organist and maestro at the local parish church. Having composed various apprentice pieces, Rodrigo was awarded an Honourable Commendation in 1925 in a national music competition for his orchestral work, Cinco piezas infantiles, first performed by the Valencia Symphony Orchestra two years later.

 

In the autumn of 1927, the young composer, following the precedent of so many Spanish musicians, travelled to Paris, enrolling at the Ecole Normale de Musique. His teacher, Paul Dukas, one of the masters of early twentieth-century French music, profoundly influenced Rodrigo, especially in aspects of orchestration. In 1928, the French President awarded Manuel de Falla the National Legion of Honour. Rodrigo was invited to perform his own piano pieces at the ceremony, thus extending his growing reputation as composer and virtuoso pianist. Around the same time, Rodrigo met Victoria Kamhi, a young Jewish pianist from Istanbul, the daughter of a businessman. Despite various difficulties, financial and otherwise, they fell in love and eventually married in January 1933, but a year later hardship enforced months of separation, a dilemma resolved only when Rodrigo was awarded a prestigious Conde de Cartagena Scholarship, enabling him to be reunited with his wife in Paris. In 1936 disaster struck again when the Spanish Civil War began and the Scholarship fund was no longer available. Eventually Rodrigo and his wife found refuge for eighteen months at the Institute for the Blind in Freiburg. In 1938 he returned to Spain for a brief stay at a summer school in Santander, but failing to secure employment, was forced to return once more in Paris. In 1939 Victoria suffered a miscarriage, yet somehow, despite such tribulations, Rodrigo found the strength and inspiration to complete the Concierto de Aranjuez, a work which would change his life.

 

Rodrigo went back to Spain shortly before the start of the Second World War. Life there was extremely difficult, but with the help of colleagues, including Falla, Rodrigo was soon offered sufficient employment to earn a reasonable living. After years of deprivation, the tide began to turn with the première 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 gain international esteem. Throughout his long life Joaquín Rodrigo wrote more than two hundred compositions, creating a prolific variety of orchestral pieces, concertos, songs and choral works, guitar, piano, violin, and other instrumental 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 in October 1978, for the exceptionally gifted flautist, James Galway. The work is divided into three movements, the first being in classical form, with first and second themes, imposing exceptional difficulties on the soloist in the first theme...The second theme has a more pastoral character, reminiscent of popular Valencian 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, with more repose. In this movement the cadenza can be found, as is customary in this musical form. The third movement is a rondo with the air of pastoral dance...

 

The Concierto pastoral has proved to be an exciting and perennial addition to the flute repertory, attracting the finest soloists in what 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 of Fantasía para un gentilhombre, originally for guitar and orchestra. When Galway sought Rodrigo’s permission to arrange the work for flute and orchestra, the composer willingly agreed, though he remained very attentive to the new score, suggesting appropriate amendments. This concerto, written for Andrés Segovia, the guitar’s greatest ‘gentleman’, and first performed by him in 1958, based its inspiration on a selection of dances from a tutor by the seventeenth-century Baroque guitarist and composer, Gaspar Sanz. Rodrigo’s art, which so often unites the glories of ancient Spanish music with twentieth-century textures and techniques, offers a sumptuous orchestral tapestry encapsulating the expressive themes of another age in modern colours.

 

Rodrigo’s choice of movements in Fantasía para un gentilhombre juxtaposes energy and elegance, sensitivity and robustness. A dignified Villano is paired with the delicately imitative passages of the Ricercare, and the expressive melodic contours of an Españoleta complement the evocative Fanfare of the Neopolitan Cavalry. After the haunting Danza de las hachas comes the climactic Canario, a vigorous zapateado (stamping of the heels), from the Canary Islands, spiced with a dazzling cadenza.

           

Some thirty years earlier, Rodrigo composed Dos miniaturas andaluzas (1929) for string orchestra, but he could scarcely have anticipated that the première would be delayed seventy years until 22nd November, 1999. Here the introduction to Preludio (marked lento e cantabile), once again recalls mysterious shades of the Spanish Renaissance, but a different vista soon develops as Rodrigo’s colourful sonorities create an essentially Andalusian mood. The second movement, Danza, captures the ear with rhythmic strumming effects, evoking guitars, a device Rodrigo emulated in several of his concertos.

 

The splendour of Rodrigo’s musical imagination is superbly represented in Adagio para instrumentos de viento (Adagio for wind instruments), first given in Pittsburgh in 1966 by the American Wind Symphony Orchestra, to which it is dedicated. Rodrigo regarded this work as ‘architecturally in the shape of a sonata without development, with two themes one after the other in different tonalities, returning eventually in the same key’. After the initial and quite extended lyrical statement, a brief outburst, signalled by crescendo drum beats, leads on to a thrilling, very robust change of mood followed by urgent fanfares. Then the first theme returns with gentle nostalgia, slightly meditative and always profoundly Spanish. A trumpet call suddenly disturbs such introspection, but this proves to be no more than a short interlude as the piece progresses, after some moments of sound and fury, towards its essentially serene conclusion. Implicit throughout the work is the composer’s subtle homage to the ancient tradition of the wind bands of his native Valencia.

 

Graham Wade

 

(author of Joaquín Rodrigo, A Life in Music,

Vols 1 & 2 (in preparation),

Joaquín Rodrigo: Concierto de Aranjuez,

and Distant Sarabandes, The Solo Guitar Music of Joaquín Rodrigo.)


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