In my last post we talked about the lack of national identity in 19th-century Finland, resulting in the population’s pride in Sibelius’ nationalistic Finlandia. A similar pride developed in Spain during the 20th century following the premiere of Joaquín Rodrigo’s Concierto de Aranjuez. The work was first performed in 1940, not long after the end of the Spanish Civil War. Inspired by Spanish classical and folk music, art, and literature, the piece is exactly what Spain needed to hold onto a sense of national pride.
Joaquín Rodigo was blind from the age of three yet showed musical talent early on, studying with the famous composer Paul Dukas. Rodrigo had a strong interest in the classical guitar, at least 6 of his 13 concertos involving the instrument. Aiming to create a Spanish ambiance in his music, the Concierto de Aranjuez references the flamenco style and Spanish folksong. Rodrigo noted that the piece was named for the royal palace located between Madrid and Toledo. Describing the concerto, Rodrigo once commented, “It should sound like the hidden breeze that stirs the treetops in the parks, as strong as a butterfly, as dainty as a [a classic pass in bullfighting].”
Below you can listen to the Adagio from this concerto. This movement is known as one of the most-recognized guitar melodies in history. Take note of the beautiful lyricism used in this work. Perhaps the piece became instantly popular following its premiere because it evokes a romanticized idea of how the composer viewed his country rather than the difficult reality they had just experienced during a civil war? What do you think?