Beyond Aranjuez: Exploring the Music of Joaquín Rodrigo
Jun. 01, 2020
Joaquín Rodrigo is probably best known for his ravishing concerto for guitar and orchestra, Concierto de Aranjuez. Commanding numerous performances around the world each season, it is only one of Rodrigo's many exquisite and accessible works for orchestra. Previously, we have highlighted Rodrigo's A la búsca del más allá, a symphonic tone poem written in 1976 after Rodrigo toured the headquarters of the US space agency NASA in Texas. When he was subsequently commissioned by the Houston Symphony Orchestra for the US bicentennial, he chose to write a piece about the human exploration of space. The work begins and ends with a long roll on suspended cymbals; it emerges from nowhere and disappears, comments Rodrigo, ‘as if lost somewhere in space – in the other world’.
(A la búsca del más allá/London Symphony Orchestra/Enrique Bátiz)
The energetic Concierto Pastoral for flute and orchestra (1978) is another testament to Rodrigo's brilliance. This delightful concerto was written for the celebrated flautist James Galway, to whom the work is dedicated. Joaquín Rodrigo uses a small orchestra with deft coloring to support his soloist and there is a definite feeling of freedom and joy in the outdoors about the work. Other notable orchestral masterpieces by Joaquín Rodrigo include Concierto in modo galante for cello and orchestra, Concierto andaluz for four guitars and orchestra, Homenaje a la Tempranica and Dos danzas españolas for orchestra, and Concierto de estío for violin and orchestra.
(Concierto Pastoral/Jennifer Stinton, flute, and the English Chamber Orchestra/Stewart Bedford, conductor)
During this time of social distancing, however, orchestras and other ensembles have expressed an interest in programming powerful works for fewer performers, of which Joaquín Rodrigo composed many. Though the performing forces are smaller, the impact and beauty of these works does not pale in comparison to Rodrigo's larger works.
Chamber orchestra works include Rodrigo's Tres viejos aires de danza, while string orchestras will want to explore Zarabanda lejana y villancico, and Dos miniaturas andaluzas.
(Tres viejos aires de danza/Orquesta Ciudad de Granada/Josep Pons, conductor)
(Zarabanda lejana y villancico/London Symphony Orchestra/Enrique Bátiz, conductor)
Musicologist Andrés Ruiz Tarazona notes, "Joaquín Rodrigo gave a new and universal language to the concert song, without relinquishing its Spanish identity. And the value of that language is not due to its Spanish character bur rather to that indefinable and distinctive quality which is the mark of a great artist...." Rodrigo's songs are truly captivating, and many are written for a solo singer with chamber ensemble or small orchestra. This includes Rosaliana, a cycle featuring the poetry of Rosalía de Castro, Cántico de la esposa, with text by St. John of the Cross, and Tríptic de Mossén Cinto, set to the words of Jacinto Verdaguer. The arias from Rodrigo's Christmas oratorio, Retablo de Navidad can be excerpted and performed by a single vocalist with ensemble. These include the lullaby, "Duermete, niño," the jaunty "Arie y Donaire," the tender "Pastorcito Santo", and other appealing selections for holiday programs.
(Cántico de la esposa/Ana María Martínez, soprano/Orquesta Real Philarmonía de Galicis/
Antoni Ros Marbá, conductor)
Finally, we invite our readers to explore Rodrigo's opera, El hijo fingido, a unique offering to consider when staged performances resume in earnest. The story includes a comedic rivalry between a mother and daughter competing for the affections of a young sailor who has assumed a false identity, is discovered, and ultimately pardoned. An entertaining and engaging zarzuela, El hijo fingido is available for premiere in North America.
For more information on Joaquín Rodrigo, visit joaquin-rodrigo.com and schott-music.com.