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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 probably Rodrigo's best-known work, and its success established his reputation as one of the most significant Spanish composers of the twentieth century.



Royal Palace of Aranjuez
The Concierto de Aranjuez was inspired by the gardens at Palacio Real de Aranjuezmarker, 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 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.

Rodrigo dedicated the Concierto de Aranjuez to Regino Sainz de la Maza.

Rodrigo, blind since age three, was a pianist. He did not play the guitar, yet he still managed to capture the spirit of the guitar in Spainmarker.


Composed in early 1939, in Parismarker, amid the tensions of the pending war, it was the first work Rodrigo had written 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.


This concerto is in three movements, Allegro con spirito, Adagio and Allegro gentile.

The second movement, the best-known of the three, is marked by its slow pace and quiet melody, introduced by the English horn, 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.


Concierto de Aranjuez Premiere
Date 9 November 1940
Guitarist Regino Sainz de la Maza
Orchestra Orquesta Filarmónica de Barcelona
Conductor César Mendoza Lasalle
Venue Palau de la M√ļsica Catalanamarker, Barcelonamarker

On December 11, 1940 the concerto received its first performance in Madridmarker, at the Teatro Espa√Īol de Madrid conducted by Jes√ļs Ar√°mbarri, with the same soloist, de la Maza.

Tribute to Rodrigo

In 1991, Rodrigo was given the title Marqués de los Jardines de Aranjuez (Marquis of the Gardens of Aranjuez) by King Juan Carlos of Spain.


A number of musicians have since reinterpreted the work, including jazz legend 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". 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. Bassist Buster Williams performs a solo bass transcription of the second movement of Concierto de Aranjuez on his album Griot Liberté (2006).

Until asked to perform and interpret Concierto de Aranjuez in 1991, the Spanish flamenco guitarist Paco de Lucia was not proficient at reading musical notation. De Lucía claimed in Paco de Lucia-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. Joaquín Rodrigo later declared that no one had ever played his composition in such a brilliant manner.

A major interpretation of the Concierto, which stands strongly with Miles Davis's Sketches rendition, is that by Jim Hall on his 1975's album, Concierto (also featuring Chet Baker, Paul Desmond, Ron Carter, Steve Gadd, and Roland Hanna). Hall's strong lyricism and outstanding sense of tone particularly giving the piece (performed in full and running to over 19 minutes) an understated power. The Concierto is, in many ways, the centrepiece of the album which is often regarded as Jim Hall's peak.

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 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 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".


The Adagio is likely the most famous, and most recognizable part of the piece, and used in numerous movies, television shows, and commercials. Consequently many people will have heard Concierto de Aranjuez without knowing its title or composer. Many listeners and musicians assume that the piece is much older than it is, which became a problem for Rodrigo, since performers frequently failed to pay him royalties because they assumed the piece was out of copyright (as happened with the Davis/Evans Sketches of Spain version, for instance) .

Some Jewish cantors, specifically of Sephardic tendency, have adopted the main melody from the Adagio for the Kaddish, one of the most important parts of the Jewish liturgy. This can be seen especially in Sephardic congregations of Latin America (Mexicomarker and Argentinamarker), as well as in Israelmarker. The phrasing of the Kaddish verses corresponds almost perfectly to the phrasing of the Adagio, resulting in a surprising religious effect and tone color.



Other sources

  • 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). Joaqu√≠n Rodrigo and the Concierto de Aranjuez. New York: Mayflower. ISBN 0946896151

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