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Joaquin Rodrigo, blind since the age of 3 due to diphtheria, moved to Paris at 26 to study with Paul Dukas in 1927. After marrying Turkish pianist Victoria Kamhi in 1933, Rodrigo returned to Paris to study at the Conservatory and the Sorbonne. He came back to Spain only after the end of the Spanish Civil War in 1939.
He brought with him the Concierto de Aranjuez, a breakthrough work he had composed at the suggestion of guitarist Regino Sainz de la Maza, to whom the concerto is dedicated. It’s inspired by the small town of Aranjuez , which is about 30 miles south of Madrid on the River Tagus. A green oasis with a mild climate in the barren plateau of central Spain, the area features a green landscape with excellent game hunting. In the mid-18th century, a palace was built as a summer retreat for the Spanish court.
The Concierto de Aranjuez’s second movement Adagio features one of the classic melodies of music. It has been arranged, covered, transcribed by rock groups, brass bands, singers, and jazz groups, with the most famous that of Miles Davis in his album Sketches of Spain. Rodrigo and his wife Victoria stayed silent for many years about the inspiration for the second movement, and thus the popular belief grew that it was inspired by the bombing of Guernica in 1937. In her autobiography, Victoria eventually declared that it was both an evocation of the happy days of their honeymoon and a response to Rodrigo's devastation at the miscarriage of their first pregnancy.
Glencoe native Jason Blair Lewis will play the concerto, which he first heard at Interlochen at age 14. He says of the piece, “I understood it as an opportunity to reveal the nuance and beauty of the guitar. Rodrigo showcases the classical guitar as a mini orchestra, imitating the expressive sound of the English horn or the tinny timbre of a trumpet.”
Maestro Eckerling notes that “the composer beautifully showcases the classical guitar, exploiting all the possibilities that the instrument has to offer. And in the orchestra, Rodrigo amazingly captures and imitates the harmony that is intrinsic to the guitar. This, along with Spanish melodies and rhythms provide a unification of soloist and orchestra making it one of the great pieces of Spanish music ever written.”
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