This composer, the most important Spanish composer of our time, was born on November 22nd, 1901. November 22nd is the feast day of Saint Cecilia, the patron saint of music. This is a composer that seems to have done the impossible, for he was not only incredibly gifted, but also blind. He lost his sight at the age of three on account of diphtheria. It is said that when one loses the ability to see, a keen development of the senses takes place, and among them the sense of hearing. This composer definitely shows cogent evidence of this, for his works were great. Among them, his masterpiece, the Concerto de Aranjuez, is probably known by even the most ignorant to classical music. It’s second movement, Andante, has not only been used in many documentary films on Spain, but also in a great deal of films.
When Rodrigo was 8 years old, he started to learn violin and piano. At the age of 17, he attended the Valencia Conservatory and wrote his first works in 1923. The question is, how was he able to compose being blind? Answer – he first wrote in Braille, thereby dictating the finished work to a scribe. In 1927, following the example of many Spanish composers of the time, he moved to Paris to study under Dukas for five years at the École Normale de Musique. He and his works were well known at this time and so was encouraged by other composers such as Ravel, Falla and Stravisnsky to continue making such great progress. It was during this time period when he made the acquaintance of the Turkish pianist Vicotria Kamhi, a significant woman in his life, for she became his wife in 1933.
He returned home to Spain for a short time only to find out that he was to be bestowed a grant to study Musicology at the Paris Conservatoire and at the Sorbonne. Back to France! Unfortunately, on account of the civil war which broke out in 1936, his grant was cut off, leaving him in grave financial difficulties. Luckily, he was able to survive this; he moved back to Spain at the end of the war and brought his gift of music along with him, namely the Concerto de Aranjuez for guitar and orchestra, immediately making him Spain’s leading composer. He composed many other beautiful works, although nothing has quite compared to the Concerto de Aranjuez. Of course, his gift was not only to Spain alone. To date, it is the most frequently played guitar concerto in the world and has greatly helped contribute to the guitar’s recognition as a concert instrument. The next time you listen to this great work by Joaquin Rodrigo, take a second in your mind to thank him for writing it.