Joaquín Rodrigo (22.11.1901 – 06.07.1999) was a Spanish composer and pianist. At the age of three he contracted diphtheria and lost his sight. Perhaps surprisingly, as he is largely remembered for guitar works, Rodrigo was an accomplished pianist and did not play the guitar. His status as one of the most popular 20th Century composers is largely down to two works: Concierto de Aranjuez and Fantasia para un Gentilhombre. Indeed his Concierto de Aranjuez is is widely regarded as one of the pinnacles of Spanish music and of the guitar concerto repertoire.
The Concierto de Aranjuez was composed in 1939 not in Spain, but like many great Spanish pieces, in Paris. The concerto is written in three movements and elegantly achieves a balance between the solo guitar and the orchestra that has inspired many more recent composers to explore this genre. The piece requires flambuoyant virtuosity from the soloist and the entire work seems to get to the very heart of sPanish guitar music. If you just want to listen to one movement then the soulful central adagio is the equivalent of a ‘greatest hit’.
There are many great performances of this work available among the one hundred plus available recordings. We would highlight Julian Bream (guitar) with the Monteverdi Orchestra conducted by John Eliot Gardiner and a 2014 recording of Miloš Karadaglić (guitar) with the London Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Yannick Nézet-Séguin as belonging in any collection. But if committed to just one choice then we must opt for the great Spanish guitarist, and friend of Rodrigo, Pepe Romero (born March 8, 1944). This outstanding 2000 recording with The Academy of St.Martin-in-the-Fields and the late Sir Neville Marriner also includes the Fantasia para un Gentilhombre.