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A Guitarist for the Ages - Joaquin Rodrigo by Shyam Amladi


   Joaquin Rodrigo

I first heard a piece by Joaquin Rodrigo in Pepperdine’s Music school. And instantly fell in love with this Spanish guitarist’s clever composition technique---harmonizing contemporary, somewhat strident sounds with the serenity of classical cadence.

A noted musicologist said: “Had it not been for Joaquín Rodrigo, Spain could well have found itself in the musical doldrums. It was Rodrigo who discovered a way of bringing Spanish music fully into the 20th century without resorting to Modernist techniques.”

As another musicologist Tomás Marco pointed out: “In form, harmony, melody and rhythm, Rodrigo’s work might be broadly classified as neoclassical. The remarkable thing is that despite being a traditionalist at heart, Rodrigo managed to develop a style so individual and distinctive that his music could be by no one else.”

Of course, Spanish music, probably because of its richness, complexity and absorption of other cultures from as far back as 4th century AD, has held a special attraction for other European musicians of different vintage----Lalo, Bizet, Chabrier and even the Russian, Rimsky-Kursokov.

Rodrigo’s music, as you will hear in one of his signature compositions for Guitar and Orchestra (Concierto de Aranjuez), stands out for its rhythmic flourishes and repetitive strumming figurations – a feature of any Spanish guitar performance. However, the Concierto unique in many respects. Above all, probably for the first time a composer was able to feature a full orchestra around Guitar—not generally considered as a sustaining instrument. And yet, in Rodrigo’s composition, the Guitar is never overpowered by the other full-range instruments—e.g. the Bassoon. the Oboe or the Horn.

The three movements open with a flamenco-style take on Baroque concerto form. The second movement is a fervent lament, and the concerto closes with a lively finale. The soloist introduced the main motif—a gentle, swaying melody, with the musical “conversation” that involves other instruments--not dissimilar to Beethoven's "Emperor", however without its inharent stress  between the Piano and the ensemble.

Rodrigo was a prolific composer. Among his other pieces: Cinco piezas infantiles, and the symphonic poem, Ausencias de Dulcinea.

Did I mention that Joaquin Rodrigo was blind?

Here is Pepe Romero and the orchestra, performing Rodrigo's Concierto de Aranjuez