Joaquín Rodrigo was one of the most significant figures in 20th-century Spanish music. A gifted composer, pianist, academic, and music critic, he cultivated a neoclassical style that blended Classical idioms with the rhythms, textures, and colors of Spanish music; he wrote music that was, in his words, “faithful to tradition.”
Rodrigo’s eyes were severely damaged when he contracted diphtheria at the age of three, and soon after he lost his sight completely. (He wrote his pieces in Braille, and then had them transcribed for publication.) Despite this disability, he developed quickly as a musician. He started studying piano and violin at age eight, and ultimately became a piano virtuoso.
His most famous work, however, is not for piano but for Spain’s national instrument: the guitar. Rodrigo’s Concierto de Aranjuez, composed in 1939 and inspired by the 16th-century Royal Palace of Aranjuez, was wildly popular. Its second movement, an adagio lament that features a heartrending tune for English horn, is one of the most recognizable pieces of 20th-century classical music. (Miles Davis used the concerto as inspiration for his 1959 album Sketches of Spain, as did Chick Corea on his jazz piece Spain.) The adagio showcases his gift for melody, which is also ever present in his remarkable songs.
Rodrigo, who lived to be ninety-seven years old, wrote around 170 compositions, including eleven concertos, numerous orchestral and choral works, two dozen pieces each for piano and guitar, ballet and theater music, and sixty songs.
- Joaquín Rodrigo website; the site contains a complete works list, as well as information about scores, books, and CDS related to his music.
- Verdejo, Carlos Laredo. Joaquín Rodrigo: Biografía [in Spanish]. Sinerrata Editores, 2015.
- Kamhi de Rodrigo, Victoria. Hand in Hand with Joaquín Rodrigo: My Life at the Maestro’s Side. Translated by Ellen Wilkerson. Latin American Literary Review Press, 1992.
- Goodman, Al. “Joaquín Rodrigo, 97, Master Of Spanish Classical Music [obituary of the composer].” New York Times, July 8, 1999.