“Losing my sight had nothing to do with my focus on music. My passion for music was already there, so it would be a mistake to give too much significance to my blindness.” - Andrea Bocelli
Joaquín Rodrigo Vidre (22 November 1901 – 6 July 1999) was a Spanish composer of classical music and a virtuoso pianist. In spite of being blind from an early age, he achieved great success. He was born in Sagunto, Valencia, and lost his sight almost completely at the age of three after contracting diphtheria.
He began to study piano and violin at the age of eight, but despite being best known for his guitar music, never mastered the instrument himself. Rodrigo studied music under Francisco Antich in Valencia and under Paul Dukas in Paris. After briefly returning to Spain, he went to Paris again to study musicology, first under Maurice Emmanuel and then under André Pirro.
In 1925 he received Spain’s National Prize for Orchestra for “Cinco piezas infantiles”. From 1947 Rodrigo was a professor of music history, holding the Manuel de Falla Chair of Music in the Faculty of Philosophy and Letters, at Complutense University of Madrid. His most famous work, “Concierto de Aranjuez”, was composed in 1939 in Paris. It is a concerto for solo classical guitar and orchestra. The central adagio movement is one of the most recognisable in 20th century classical music, featuring the interplay of guitar with English horn.
The success of this concerto led to commissions from a number of prominent soloists, including the flautist James Galway and the cellist Julian Lloyd Webber. In 1954 Rodrigo composed “Fantasía para un gentilhombre” at the request of Andrés Segovia. His “Concierto Andaluz”, for four guitars and orchestra, was commissioned by Celedonio Romero for himself and his three sons.
In 1991, Rodrigo was raised to the nobility by King Juan Carlos, given the title Marqués de los Jardines de Aranjuez [Marquis of the Gardens of Aranjuez]. He received the prestigious Prince of Asturias Award (Spain’s highest civilian honour) in 1996. He was named Commander of the Order of Arts and Letters by the French government in 1998. He married Victoria Kamhi, a Turkish-born pianist, on 19 January 1933, in Valencia. Their daughter, Cecilia, was born 27 January 1941. He died in 1999 in Madrid. Joaquín Rodrigo and his wife Victoria are buried at the cemetery at Aranjuez.
Here is his “Concerto de Aranjuez” (1939) with the DRSO. Soloist, Pepe Romero and conducted by Rafael Frühbeck de Burgos.
1. Allegro con spirito
3. Allegro gentile