Although his primary instruments were piano and violin, Spanish composer Joaquín Rodrigo (1901-1999) is best known today for his Concierto de Aranjuez for guitar and orchestra. But Rodrigo wrote many other compositions that have become standard repertoire for classical guitar. Indeed, Julian Bream, renowned and recently departed British guitarist, observed in the magazine Classic FM in 1999 that “The success of Concierto de Aranjuez has somehow eclipsed Rodrigo’s other works. They need to be brought out and rediscovered, and Rodrigo should not be considered the author of only one work because the future will undoubtedly reveal other treasures to us.”
In the spirit of revealing those “other treasures,” and in honor of Rodrigo’s birthday on November 22 (which also happens to be the feast day of Saint Cecilia, patron saint of music), the NLS Music Section has digitized four braille scores for solo guitar and made them available to download from BARD. Let’s take a look at what the maestro himself had to say about these well-loved guitar compositions. All quotations from Rodrigo below appear in Hand in Hand with Joaquín Rodrigo: My Life at the Maestro’s Side, a memoir by the composer’s wife and collaborator, Victoria Kamhi de Rodrigo. Ellen Wilkerson translated the book from Spanish into English.
En los Trigales (“In the Wheat Fields”), single line format, BRM24493
“This piece forms part of a kind of imaginary Suite that I call ‘Through the Spanish Countryside.’ It is one of my most popular works for the guitar. En los trigales is set in Old Castile; the Castile region extends to the ends of the earth, as its inhabitants like to remark, and loves strong music. In contrast to the virile dance of the first part, a kind of recitation follows, with the faraway sound of bells, similar to a rest or respite during the difficult work of the harvest.” — Joaquín Rodrigo
“Fandango” from Tres Piezas Españolas, single line format, BRM24575
“This favorite piece of many guitarists forms part of a Suite of three pieces for the guitar (called ‘Passacaglia,’ ‘Fandango,’ and ‘Zapateado’) composed in 1954, the same year as Fantasía para un Gentilhombre for guitar and orchestra. The ‘Fandango’ is a dance that was once enjoyed by all Spanish social classes and should not be confused with the ‘fandanguillo,’ which is totally different. My fandango for guitar is a little solemn, but maintains a popular touch, for example in the central section, which contains various echoes of the ‘seguidilla’ which recounts the heroic feats of brave smugglers.” — Joaquín Rodrigo
Sarabande Lointaine (from Zarabanda lejana y villancico), single line format, BRM24499
“These two compositions, written a few years apart, still correspond to the same style and were conceived as a single work. They evoke the Spanish music of the 16th and 17th centuries. Zarabanda lejana was composed for guitar and soon after orchestrated by the composer as a dialog between the orchestra and its soloists. ‘The old Zarabanda is heard, hidden behind the lattice-work of the arches, enveloped in a mist of muted strings.'” — Joaquín Rodrigo
It seems that Rodrigo was quite inspired by the guitarists that he encountered over the course of his life. In fact, it was a lunchtime conversation with guitarist Regino Sainz de la Maza in 1938 that gave Rodrigo the initial spark of inspiration to compose a guitar concerto–what would become the Concierto de Aranjuez–which Sainz de la Maza premiered in Barcelona in 1940. Also during the late 1930s in Paris, Rodrigo heard guitarist Emilio Pujol play settings of Renaissance poetry for vihuela and soprano, which inspired him to write his Cuatro Madrigales Amatorios for voice and piano. Guitar master Andrés Segovia commissioned Rodrigo to compose a guitar concerto, and Segovia himself debuted the resulting Fantasía para un Gentilhombre in San Francisco in 1955.
Invocation et Danse: Hommage à Manuel de Falla (or Invocación y danza), single line format, BRM29496
This piece was premiered in 1962 by renowned Venezuelan guitarist Alirio Díaz, a student of Segovia. Rodrigo dedicated it to fellow Spanish composer Manuel de Falla (1876-1946) in honor of his mentorship and friendship. Rodrigo first met Falla in 1928, while he was studying composition in Paris with Paul Dukas at the École Normale de Musique. According to Suzanne Rhodes Draayer’s research, “Falla encouraged Rodrigo to compose nationalistic music that would employ Spanish dance rhythms, gypsy and Moorish melodies, and the accompanimental effects of the guitar.” Crucially, when Falla was inducted into the Légion d’Honneur, he generously invited younger Spanish composers, including Rodrigo, to perform their works in a concert marking the occasion. Thanks to this concert, Rodrigo gained recognition in Paris as a composer and secured publishing contracts for his music. Falla’s support continued into the 1930s, when he backed Rodrigo’s application for the Conde de Cartagena Scholarship from the Spanish Royal Academy of Fine Arts, which provided vital support for Joaquín and Victoria both before and after the Spanish Civil War (the scholarship was suspended during the war). Finally, in 1947 Rodrigo was appointed to the Manuel de Falla Chair of Music at the Complutense University of Madrid. It is clear that there was deep mutual respect and admiration between the two composers and that Falla valued both Rodrigo’s talent and his character, for he wrote, “I thank the Lord for having in you a friend whose heart is of the same rare and fine quality as his art.”
You can also find the following two guitar pieces by Rodrigo in Dionisio Aguado’s Método de Guitarra (BRM32219) in section by section format:
Volume 4, page 106: Fandango del Ventorillo (transcription for two guitars)
Volume 7, page 102: Trois petites pièces (or Tres piezas pequeñas): I. Ya se van los pastores, II. Por caminos de Santiago, III. Pequeña Sevillana.
To borrow any of these titles, you may either download them from BARD or request a hard copy through the mail. Please contact the NLS Music Section to borrow hard copies of braille music, talking books on digital cartridge, or large-print music. Call us at 1-800-424-8567, or e-mail us at [email protected] for assistance.