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Joaquín and Victoria Rodrigo: An Artistic Partnership

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As the NLS Music Section continues to explore the life and music of Joaquín Rodrigo, today we celebrate the artistic partnership he enjoyed with his wife, pianist and woman of letters Victoria Kamhi de Rodrigo, and the contributions she made. It seems particularly fitting to do so in April, which is National Poetry Month, considering that Victoria either composed or adapted many of the texts that Joaquín set in his art songs.

In fact, Victoria, who spoke several languages, first became personally acquainted with Joaquín in 1929 when she was called upon to use her linguistic skills to assist him. Joaquín had sent the score of his orchestral work Cinco Piezas Infantiles to a conductor of the Wiesbaden Orchestra who had not returned it, despite his letters in Spanish and French. A classmate of Joaquín at the École Normale de Musique who was also a friend of Victoria asked her if she could write a letter in German to the conductor to ask for the score. The German letter was successful and at the premier of the piece by the Straram Orchestra in Paris, which Victoria attended, Joaquín dedicated the piece to her to express his gratitude for rescuing the score.

Victoria would become vital to Joaquín’s process of writing and publishing scores. As Suzanne Rhodes Draayer relates, Rodrigo wrote his manuscripts in braille music notation and then dictated the music to a copyist, who transcribed it into print music notation. Victoria initially served as Joaquín’s copyist, and she also made corrections between the copyist and the publisher, correcting the proofs for most of his compositions. At times, Victoria was the driving force behind the publication of a work, as with Invocation et Danse (BRM29496) in 1961. As Victoria wrote in her memoir Hand in Hand with Joaquin Rodrigo, Joaquín had been encouraged to submit a piece to a competition for guitar compositions, but he was not feeling inclined to write anything new for guitar at the time. Victoria then recalled that Joaquín had written an unpublished guitar composition years earlier and they retrieved the score from the home of guitarist Regino Sáinz de la Maza. It was a rough draft in pencil with many errors but they set about correcting and revising it and submitted it to the competition hours before the deadline. The piece won the prize and was subsequently published.

Victoria’s artistic contributions are perhaps most evident today in the many texts that she either wrote, adapted, or selected for Joaquín to set in his songs. For example, the song “Barcarola” sets a German poem that Victoria wrote and published in a Viennese magazine when she was 15, while “Canción del Cucu” sets a poem Victoria wrote while the couple were refugees in the cuckoo-laden Black Forest during the Spanish Civil War. Victoria also wrote the plot of Joaquín’s 1954 ballet Pavana Real, undertaking research in Spain’s National Library to learn about the vihuelists of the sixteenth century. Remarkably, in 1963 Victoria was called upon to overhaul the book of Joaquín’s lyric opera El Hijo Fingido after the original writer abandoned the project. Victoria wrote in Hand in Hand, describing the intensive task of revising the book, “For many days I pored over various works by the illustrious playwright [Lope de Vega], most of which had fallen into oblivion. With a few judicious cuts, as is done with the works of Shakespeare and other classic authors, they could be staged perfectly, which would enrich the repertory of the classic Spanish theater.”

We also mentioned in the previous post that Victoria was an immensely talented pianist, and although she elected not to pursue a solo career, she remained very active as an accompanist, collaborating in concert with various singers and violinists to perform her husband’s works, and also recording the Bach flute sonatas. During their concert tours around the world, Victoria and Joaquín always included the Gran Marcha de los Subsecretarios, which they performed together at the piano. On one occasion, Victoria filled in for Joaquín at the piano for the premier of “La Grotte,” a work for voice and piano that had been commissioned by a music festival. As Victoria related in Hand in Hand, “Joaquín had promised to accompany this song at the piano, but during the days preceding our journey, he felt very tired and without the spirit to perform in public. At that point I had no choice but to master this work–a very difficult one–with all speed…on the day of the opening it came out so beautifully that we had to repeat it at the audience’s insistence.”

Victoria was recognized during her lifetime for her artistic achievements and contributions, becoming a member of the General Society of Spanish Authors as a writer and composer in 1956. She also received the Ribbon of Alfonso the Wise in 1977 and wrote that “it was proof that my work at Joaquin’s side was recognized and appreciated.” Joaquín Rodrigo himself, of course, profoundly appreciated Victoria’s partnership, for in 1966, when he received Spain’s Grand Cross of Civil Merit, Victoria recalled that he ended his acceptance speech “by saying that he offered this Cross, which was so great an honor, to Vicky, his wife, who had helped him to accomplish his work.”

To honor the great artistic collaboration and partnership between Joaquín and Victoria Rodrigo, we’ve created a list of materials from the National Library Service that are related to other famous musical partnerships. We also list below works by Joaquín Rodrigo from the Music Section’s collection. Enjoy!

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.

To read our past posts about Joaquín Rodrigo, please visit the following pages:

Musical Partnerships

Talking Books

The Dynamics of Collaboration (DBM00201)

Fascinating Rhythm: The Collaboration of George and Ira Gershwin (DB 38485)

Iola Brubeck (DBM04292). Conversation with lyricist Iola Brubeck, wife of famed jazz musician Dave Brubeck.

Merce Cunningham and John Cage. Two artists discuss their innovations in music and choreography and describe their collaboration. (DBM00124)

The Most Unforgettable Composer I Never Met: Richard Rodgers (DBM00515)

Oklahoma! And Beyond (DBM00233)

Opera Explained: Gilbert and Sullivan (DBM03617)

Rodgers and Hammerstein (DB 36269)

Something Wonderful: Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Broadway Revolution (DB 92173)

Audio Music Instruction

59th Street Bridge Song (Feelin’ Groovy). Bill Brown teaches this song on guitar by ear in the style of Simon and Garfunkel (DBM02335)

Sound of Silence–Neoclassical Guitar Solo. Bill Brown teaches a late intermediate neoclassical guitar solo arrangement of this Simon and Garfunkel song (DBM03870)

Braille Music Scores

Bartók, Béla. Sonata for Two Pianos and Percussion: Piano I. Bartók frequently performed with his wife, Ditta Pásztory-Bartók, and he dedicated many of his works to her. Piano I part only. Bar over bar format. 2 volumes. (BRM34869)

Bernstein, Leonard. West Side Story. Vocal score with piano accompaniment. Line by line and bar over bar formats. 5 volumes. The creation of this musical brought together Leonard Bernstein, Jerome Robbins, Stephen Sondheim, and Arthur Laurents, among other collaborators. (BRM36377)

Simon, Paul. Bridge over Troubled Water. For voice and piano in line by line and bar over bar formats.

Selection of Works by Joaquín Rodrigo from the NLS Music Section:

Cuatro madrigales amatorios: inspirados en música española del siglo 16 : high voice and piano. Line by line and bar over bar formats. (BRM28707)

En Aranjuez con tu amor. An arrangement for voice and piano of the “Adagio” movement of Rodrigo’s Concierto de Aranjuez. Bar over bar format. Music only, text not included. (BRM35101)

En los Trigales (“In the Wheat Fields”). For guitar in single line format (BRM24493)

“Fandango” from Tres Piezas Españolas. For guitar in single line format (BRM24575)

Fandango del Ventorillo. In Método de Guitarra (BRM32219), volume 4, page 106. Transcription for two guitars. Section by section format.

Invocation et Danse: Hommage à Manuel de Falla (or Invocación y danza). For guitar in single line format (BRM29496)

Sarabande Lointaine (from Zarabanda lejana y villancico). For guitar in single line format (BRM24499)

Trois petites pièces (or Tres piezas pequeñas): I. Ya se van los pastores, II. Por caminos de Santiago, III. Pequeña Sevillana. In Método de Guitarra (BRM32219), volume 7. Section by section format. For guitar.

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