Concierto de Aranjuez
Performance in 2012 by Luis Manuel Molina and the Chamber Orchestra "Eternal Music" conducted by Guido Lopez Gavilan (6:04)
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The Concierto de Aranjuez is a composition for classical guitar and orchestra by the Spanish composer Joaquín Rodrigo. Written in 1939, it is far and away Rodrigo's best-known work, and its success established his reputation as one of the most significant Spanish composers of the twentieth century.
The Concierto de Aranjuez was inspired by the gardens at Palacio Real de Aranjuez, the spring resort palace and gardens built by Philip II in the last half of the 16th century and rebuilt in the middle of the 18th century by Ferdinand VI. The work attempts to transport the listener to another place and time through the evocation of the sounds of nature.
According to the composer, the first movement is "animated by a rhythmic spirit and vigour without either of the two themes... interrupting its relentless pace"; the second movement "represents a dialogue between guitar and solo instruments (cor anglais, bassoon, oboe, horn etc.)"; and the last movement "recalls a courtly dance in which the combination of double and triple time maintains a taut tempo right to the closing bar." He described the concerto itself as capturing "the fragrance of magnolias, the singing of birds, and the gushing of fountains" in the gardens of Aranjuez.
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. It was composed in 1939 in Paris.
In 1939, the Spanish Civil War had just ended, beginning (or continuing, depending on the part of Spain) the dictatorship of general Francisco Franco. A work premiered in Spain in this highly charged environment had to celebrate, or pretend to celebrate, or permit the interpretation that it was celebrating, the current political situation and regime. The celebration of a palace and gardens of a sixteenth-century Habsburg king offered no ideological threat to the regime, and was in harmony with its emerging policy of celebrating Spanish history, conservatively interpreted.
Composed in early 1939, in Paris, amid the tensions of the impending war, it was the first work Rodrigo wrote for guitar and orchestra. The instrumentation is unusual: rarely does the guitar face the forces of a full orchestra. Instead, the guitar is never overwhelmed, remaining the solo instrument throughout.
The premier of the Concierto de Aranjuez was held on 9 November 1940 at the Palau de la Música Catalana, in Barcelona. It was performed by guitarist Regino Sainz de la Maza with the Orquesta Filarmónica de Barcelona conducted by César Mendoza Lasalle.
On 11 December 1940 the concerto received its first performance in Madrid, at the Teatro Español de Madrid conducted by Jesús Arámbarri, with the same soloist. The United States premiere was given by Rey de la Torre on 19 November 1959, with the Cleveland Orchestra conducted by Robert Shaw.
The first movement’s 40-measure introduction begins with the solo guitar strumming a three-measure theme in 6/8. The theme is made of tonic, supertonic, and dominant chords and features a flamenco-like hemiola rhythm. As it repeats several times, the tonic chord’s uppermost note gets higher, starting with the third, then using the fifth, the tonic, and the fifth again.
The second movement, the best-known of the three, is marked by its slow pace and quiet melody, introduced by the cor anglais, with a soft accompaniment by the guitar and strings. A feeling of quiet regret permeates the piece. Ornamentation is added gradually to the melody in the beginning. An off-tonic trill in the guitar creates the first seeds of tension in the piece; they grow and take hold, but relax back to the melody periodically. Eventually, a climactic build-up starts. This breaks back into the main melody, molto appassionato, voiced by the strings with accompaniment from the woodwinds. The piece finally resolves to a calm arpeggio from the guitar, though it is the strings in the background rather than the guitar’s final note that resolve the piece.
The third movement is in mixed metre, alternating between 2/4 and 3/4. At the beginning of the movement, four-measure phrases containing 9 beats in total are formed from one 3/4 measure followed by three 2/4 measures. As the movement progresses, the metre becomes more irregular.
The concerto was recorded for the first time in either 1947 or 1948 by guitarist Regino Sainz de la Maza with the Orquesta Nacional de España, conducted by Ataúlfo Argenta, on 78 rpm records. This recording was inducted into the Latin Grammy Hall of Fame. Narciso Yepes then made two early recordings of the Aranjuez, both also with Argenta - one in mono with the Madrid Chamber Orchestra (released between 1953 and 1955), and the second in stereo with the Orquesta Nacional de España (recorded in 1957 and released in 1959). Although Ida Presti gave the French premiere of the Concierto de Aranjuez in 1948, the first female guitarist to record the concerto was Renata Tarragó (1958 or 1959) - who played with fingertips rather than fingernails - accompanied by the Orquesta de Conciertos de Madrid, conducted by Odón Alonso. William Yeoman provides an interesting discographical survey of recordings of the concerto in Gramophone magazine.
Until asked to perform and interpret Concierto de Aranjuez in 1991, the Spanish flamenco guitarist Paco de Lucía was not proficient at reading musical notation. De Lucía claimed in Paco de Lucía-Light and Shade: A Portrait that he gave greater emphasis to rhythmical accuracy in his interpretation of the Concierto at the expense of the perfect tone preferred by classical guitarists. Composer Joaquín Rodrigo later declared that no one had ever played his composition in such a brilliant manner.
A number of musicians have since reinterpreted the work, usually the second movement, perhaps most famously jazz musician Miles Davis in the company of arranger Gil Evans. On the album Sketches of Spain (1960), Davis says: "That melody is so strong that the softer you play it, the stronger it gets, and the stronger you play it, the weaker it gets."
- Deep Purple played "The orange juice song" (David Coverdale and Jon Lord) on the sessions of the 1975 "Come taste the band" album, which is based around the famous second movement. It appears on the collection "Days may come..."
- Pre-eminent classical guitarist John Williams has recorded the Concierto numerous times, including on his cd and video THE SEVILLE CONCERT (1993; expanded 2003).
- Violinist Ikuko Kawai's version, "Aranjuez", is an upbeat, faster update to the work.
- Clarinettist Jean-Christian Michel's transcription of "Aranjuez" has sold some 1,500,000 copies.
- Guitarist Buckethead covered "Sketches of Spain" on his album Electric Tears as a tribute to Miles Davis.
- Guitarist Uli Jon Roth's version "Air De Aranjuez" can be found on his album Transcendental Sky Guitar.
- Bassist Buster Williams performs a solo bass transcription of the second movement of Concierto de Aranjuez on his album Griot Liberté (2006).
- The jazz pianist Chick Corea used the beginning of the second movement as an introduction to his composition "Spain". Al Jarreau used the same intro in his arrangement of "Spain" as a vocalese.
- A version of the Concierto, influenced by Davis's rendition, was performed by Jim Hall on his 1975 album, Concierto. Hall performs the piece in full (running to over 19 minutes).
- Jazz saxophonist Tom Scott performed the second movement on his 1985 release One night – One Day. This is the 2nd movement in entirety
- The piece also featured in the film Brassed Off, with Ewan McGregor, and was played by the Grimethorpe Colliery Band. In that film, it is sometimes referred to as the 'Concierto d'Orangejuice.' This is a familiar name in the brass band community (although it is often shortened to 'Orange Juice'); the arrangement they refer to was created by Kevin Bolton.
- The Modern Jazz Quartet has several recordings of the Concierto, one with Laurindo Almeida, another on the Last Concert CD and In Memoriam CD. Jim Roberts of Orlando, FL, has two recordings, one with his trio and another with his Saxtet, both very listenable arrangements.
- A version entitled "Rodrigo's Guitar Concerto de Aranjuez (Theme from 2nd movement)" was released by The Shadows in 1979.
- A version of the Adagio was released as a single entitled "Rodrigo's Guitar Concerto" by Geoff Love, (under the name of Manuel & the Music of the Mountains) in 1976. This reached No. 3 in the British singles chart.
- Lebanese female singer Fairuz has also used the music of the second movement on one of her songs "Le Bairut" (To Beirut). Also the Egyptian born Greek singer Demis Roussos used the same music for his song "Follow Me". In 1967, the French singer Richard Anthony brought out a single named "Aranjuez mon amour", with lyrics by Guy Bontempelli.
- The Israeli singer Rita also sang a song on her second album that contained the melody of the second movement. The song was titled "Concierto de Aranjuez" or "The Rainbow Song" (Shir Hakeshet), and appeared on her 1988 album Yamey Ha-Tom.
- Led Zeppelin's keyboardist/bassist John Paul Jones incorporated parts of the music during an improvisation section of their song "No Quarter" on their 1977 tour.
- Electronic musician and composer Isao Tomita performed a version on his 1978 album Kosmos (Space Fantasy).
- André Rieu performed the piece accompanied by the church bells of Maastricht in a performance available on the DVD Songs From My Heart.
- Egyptian-Italian singer Dalida had a song entitled "Aranjuez La Tua Voce" which employed parts of the melody from the second movement.
- An arrangement of this piece is played by Takanori Arisawa a few times in a popular children's Japanese animation series, Digimon Adventure.
- Singer Summer Watson included a version called "Aranjuez, ma pensée" on her self-titled 2002 debut album Summer.
- Japanese Jazz-Fusion drummer Akira Jimbo (better known as a former drummer for groups such as Casiopea and Jimsaku) recorded an arrangement of this tune on the album Jimbo de Cover, which, as implied, is an album containing only his covers of other people's songs.
- The Limited Edition Drum and Bugle Corps (1988-1992) used the opening portion of the Adagio movement, dubbed "Spain," as a warm-up piece.
- Kimiko Itoh created a vocal/blues arrangement entitled "Follow Me" for Ghost in the Shell 2: Innocence.
- Herb Alpert's 1979 album Rise contains a track, "Aranjuez (mon amour)" (6:42) on Side 2.
- The Cuban classic guitar player Leo Brouwer made a jazz style interpretation of the Concierto with the group Irakere.
- Jazz harpist Dorothy Ashby included the composition in her 1984 album Concierto de Aranjuez.
- Croatian guitar player Petar Čulić.
Rodrigo's title of nobility
- Hand in hand with Joaquín Rodrigo: My Life at the Maestro's side, Victoria Kamhi de Rodrigo
- BBC Radio 4, 20 Oct 2009, The Sound of Magnolias. Irma Kurtz investigates Spanish composer Rodrigo's Concerto de Aranjuez. (Downloadable audio documentary)
- Coelho, Victor; Jonathan Cross (2003). The Cambridge Companion to the Guitar. Cambridge Companions to Music. Cambridge University Press. p. 188. ISBN 0-521-00040-8.
- Annala, Hannu; Heiki Mätlik (2008). Handbook of Guitar and Lute Composers. Mel Bay Publications. p. 123. ISBN 978-0-7866-5844-2.
- Biography of Rodrigo
- Michael Macmeeken. "Liner notes for CD,'Concierto de Aranjuez: The Premier Recording.'". Incidentally, Macmeeken gives the date of the premiere of the Aranjuez, by Sainz de la Maza in Barcelona, as Oct. 9, 1940.
- "Latin Grammy Hall of Fame - 2001". Latin Academy of Recording Arts & Sciences. Retrieved 17 October 2014.
- "The Spanish Legacy of Ataúlfo Argenta".
- The World's Encyclopaedia of Recorded Music, Supplement III [Jan. 1953-Dec. 1955].
- "Narciso Yepes and the Concierto de Aranjuez".
- John W. Duarte, "Presti, Ida," in Stanley Sadie (ed.), The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians (2001).
- William Yeoman. "Rodrigo's Concierto de Aranjuez: which recording is best?".
- Concierto de Aranjuez on the official Website of Paco de Lucia
- Ann Griffiths, "Zabaleta, Nicanor," in Stanley Sadie (ed.), The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians (2001).
- Shaw, Robert (2008). Hand Made, Hand Played: The Art & Craft of Contemporary Guitar. Sterling Publishing Company, Inc. p. 30. ISBN 978-1-57990-787-7.
- CIDD, France-soir May 2009
- Mayer, Geoff (2003). Guide to British Cinema. Greenwodd Publishing Group. p. 40. ISBN 978-0-313-30307-4.
- Preface to the Ernst Eulenburg edition of the work, EE6785
- Duarte, John W., (1997). Liner notes. Rodrigo Concierto de Aranjuez, etc. CD. EMI Classics 7243 5 56175 2 1.
- Haldeman, Philip. "Rodrigo: Concierto de Aranjuez; Fantasia para un Gentilhombre". American Record Guide. March–April 1998: pp. 182–183.
- Wade, Graham (1985). Joaquín Rodrigo and the Concierto de Aranjuez. New York: Mayflower. ISBN 0-946896-15-1
- Joaquin Rodrigo website
- Barbara Heninger's program notes
- Press release of SGAE about the preference of the Japanese to the Concierto de Aranjuez (SPANISH)
- Commentary on the Third Movement and an Examination of the Meaning of the Concerto – by Robert Antecki
- Angelo Gilardino of the Andrés Segovia Foundation of Spain explains about Rodrigo and Segovia
- Rodrigo's Concierto de Aranjuez for Guitar, BBC Radio 4 (audio, 30 mins)
- Rodrigo’s Concierto de Aranjuez: which recording is best? at gramophone.co.uk (article abozt the concerto and its various recordings)
- El concierto de Aranjuez' de Joaquín Rodrigo at rtve.es (video, Spanish, 30 mins)