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Joaquín Rodrigo was born in Sagunto
(Valencia) on St Cecilia's day, the patron saint of music, 22nd November
1901. At the age of three he lost his sight almost completely as a result
of an epidemic of diphtheria. This misfortune undoubtedly led him towards
music. At the age of eight he began his first musical studies: solfa, piano
and violin, and at the age of sixteen harmony and composition with teachers
from the Conservatoire in Valencia: Antich, Gomá and L6pez Chavarri.
His first compositions date from 1923:
Suite for Piano, Two Sketches for violin and piano, Siciliana for 'cello.
In 1924 his first work for orchestra, Juglares, was premièred in
Valencia and Madrid, and he obtained a Diploma in a national competition
for his orchestral work Cinco piezas infantiles, which was later premièred
in Paris by the Straram Orchestra. From the very beginning, Rodrigo has
written all his works in Braille, dictating them afterwards to a copyist.
In 1927, following the example of his predecessors
Albéniz, Granados, Falla and Turina, Rodrigo moved to Paris to enroll
at the Ecole Normale de Musique, where he studied for five years with Paul
Dukas, who had a particular affection for his Spanish pupil. In memory
of Dukas Rodrigo
wrote his Sonada de adiós for piano
in 1935. He quickly became known as both pianist and composer, and became
friendly with Falla, Honegger, Milhaud, Ravel, and many other musical celebrities
of the time.
In 1929 he met Victoria Kamhi, an excellent
pianist and pupil of Lalewicz, Lévy and Viñes. and they were
married in 1933. From that moment she has been the most important
collaborator in every aspect of Rodrigo's work as a composer.
The early years of marriage for the Rodrigos
In France and Germany were very difficult, since the Spanish Civil War
broke out shortly afterwards, and the scholarship from the Real Academia
de Bellas Artes which he had been receiving, thanks to the intervention
of Manuel de Falla, was withdrawn. Once the war was over, in 1939, the
Rodrigos returned to Spain. The composer brought with him the manuscript
of the Concierto de Aranjuez, written in Paris, a work which was to bring
Rodrigo world-wide fame. Since his return to Spain Rodrigo has led an extremely
active life, both as composer and as critic and academic. The numerous
and varied compositions include eleven Concertos for various instruments,
more than sixty songs, choral and instrumental works, and music for the
theatre and the cinema. A number of the most distinguished soloists of
our time have commissioned works from him, including Cassadó, Segovia,
Zabaleta, James Galway, Julian Lloyd Webber and Cuarteto Romero.
The posts occupied by Rodrigo include that
of Professor of the History of Music at the University of Madrid, Head
of Music Broadcasts for Spanish Radio, music critic of several newspapers,
and Head of the Artistic Section of the Spanish National Organization for
the Blind. As lecturer and pianist he has made a number of tours throughout
Spain, Europe, Latin America, the United States, Israel and Japan. His
writings on music reveal a profound understanding of the art, and include
subjects as varied as 16th century polyphony, the symphonic poems of Richard
Strauss, and the art of the conductor.
The music of Joaquín Rodrigo is
refined, luminous, fundamentally optimistic, with a particular predominance
of melody, and original harmonies. His first works reveal the influence
of composers of his time such as Ravel and Stravinsky, but soon there appears
a personal voice which will go on to create a notable chapter in the cultural
history of Spain in the 20th century, where originality of musical inspiration
goes hand in hand with a devotion to the fundamental values of his tradition.
"I believe that which is superior in us will survive," he has said. "Often,
composing music, I have had the sense that everything that is beautiful
-and the soul is this- is certain to remain."
Rodrigo and his wife have lived in Madrid
since 1939. They have a daughter, Cecilia, who is married to the distinguished
violinist, Agustín León Ara.
-From the General Catalog of Joaquín
Rodrigo, 2nd edition