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, its success establishing his reputation as one of the foremost post-war Spanish composers.
The Concierto de Aranjuez was inspired by and written for the gardens at Palacio Real de Aranjuez, the spring resort (or palace) and gardens originally built by Philip II in the last half of the 16th century, and later rebuilt in the middle of the 18th century by Ferdinand VI. The work attempts to transport the listener to the sounds of nature in both another place and time.
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 duple 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.
Some say that the second movement was inspired by the bombing of Guernica which happened in 1937. In her autobiography, the composer's wife Victoria maintains that it was an evocation of the happy days of their honeymoon, and a response to Rodrigo's devastation at the miscarriage of their first baby.
Rodrigo dedicated the Concierto de Aranjuez to Regino Sainz de la Maza.
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.
|Date||9 November 1940|
|Guitarist||Regino Sainz de la Maza|
|Orchestra||Orquesta Filarmónica de Barcelona|
|Conductor||César Mendoza Lasalle|
|Venue||Palau de la Música Catalana, Barcelona|
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 1970'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.
It seems to have obliquely inspired the piano instrumental section in Procol Harum's "Skip Softly (My Moonbeams)" from 1968, and the band occasionally pay more direct homage to Rodrigo with more explicit quotation from the adagio (as at a private party in Lejre, Denmark, in August 2006, organised by the website 'Beyond the Pale' (www.procolharum.com))
According to research by the Spanish General Society of Authors and Editors (SGAE) in July 2005, the Concierto de Aranjuez is the most beloved Spanish composition in Japan.
Pop-jazz trumpeter Herb Alpert quotes the piece extensively in the disco-influenced "Aranjuez (Mon Amour) (A-Ron-Ways)," the final song on his 1979 LP Rise. The liner notes credit Rodrigo as the song composer.
A brass version of the Adagio made a prominent appearance in the 1996 British movie Brassed Off, played by Grimethorpe Colliery Band and flugelhorn soloist Paul Hughes. The movement was referred to by the film's characters as 'Rodrigo's Concierto de Orange Juice'.
In the movie School of Rock, hearing his students practice the Concierto de Aranjuez in music class gives main character Dewey Finn the idea to form a rock band with the children.
The theme for Ghost in the Shell 2: Innocence, "Follow Me" is based on the second movement of the concerto.
An excerpt from the Adagio can be heard in the "Basil the Rat" episode of Fawlty Towers, during the scene in which Manuel is forced to give up ownership of his pet rat.
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 (Mexico and Argentina), as well as in Israel. The phrasing of the Kaddish verses corresponds almost perfectly to the phrasing of the Adagio, resulting in a surprising religious effect and tone color.
Second Movement: Adagio Tonic Key: B minor (the relative minor)
The first bar acts as in introduction, in which the tonic chord (B minor) is stated by the solo guitar above a sustained B in the cellos and double basses.
(0:09) The principal theme begins. It is five bars long, played by a solo cor anglais (this part is transposed down a perfect 5th) accompanied by the guitar and strings. The bass outlines the basic harmony of the chords I, IV, V, I. Note the descending scale in the 1st violins, with a false relation (an A natural against the A sharp in the guitar part) and the decoration of the tonic chord in the violas 1 bar before figure 1 (doubled within the chords played by the guitar).
(0:50) – Fig. 1 The principal theme is repeated by the solo guitar (extensively decorated); the phrase length and the basic harmony are unchanged, but the variety is provided by use of the 1st inversions of the I and IV chords.
(1:31) – Fig. 2 Variation of the principal theme: the cor anglais begins a 5th higher than before. The harmony descends from a chords of G major to (1:39) F sharp minor and (1:46) E minor (with a sequential elaboration of the harmony in the guitar part).
2:10 – Fig. 3 The variation of the principal theme is repeated by the solo guitar and slightly extended. The orchestra continues the extension, with cellos using a motif (fig. 4) based on the last few notes of the principal theme (the cor anglais part both two bars before fig. 1 and two bars before fig. 3, both in the cor anglais part). This motif (2:54) is taken up by violas and 1st violins in octaves. The key changes (3:02) to the Dominant, F sharp minor (third bar of fig. 4), and the F sharp minor chord is changed to major (3:07) in the bar before fig. 5. The cor anglais (3:08) plays a variant of the cello motif, consisting of a rising scale of four notes and a trill. The guitar plays the F sharp major chord in the same way as in the introduction.
This acts as a kind of development and falls into two parts:
(3:24) – Fig. 5 First Development: the first bar of this passage appears to introduce a new idea in the solo guitar part over a B major 7th chord, but in the second bar (3:31) this is revealed as an elaboration of the repeat of the principal theme (fig. 1, 2nd bar, 1st beat). The harmony resolves (3:38) onto an E major chord (3rd bar of fig. 5), and the bassoon repeats what the cor anglais played one bar before fig. 5. Two bars before fig. 6, the first two bars of fig. 5 are repeated over an A major 7th chord. (4:03) – Fig. 6 This resolves onto D minor, where the orchestra plays the first bar of the principal theme. In the second bar of fig. 6 (4:10) the guitar begins another repeat of the first two bars of fig. 5, this time over a D major chord with a minor 7th and 9th (a Dominant minor 9th chord with D as its root); note the descending triplets played (4:13) by the guitar in the second half of this bar. At the third bar of fig. 6 (4:18), the harmony moves onto G minor; the orchestra repeats the first bar of the principal theme once again. (4:23) – Fig. 7 The solo guitar follows as before over a dominant minor 9th chord, this time with G as its root, which resolves (4:26) onto C minor (fig. 7, 2nd bar, 2nd beat). A rapid modulation follows, leading to E minor at the 4th bar (4:38) of fig. 7.
(4:46) First Cadenza (4 bars after fig. 7): This is based on the guitar repeat of the principal theme (fig. 1), but the decoration is varied. The guitar part is written on two staves to distinguish between melodic writing (the lower staff) and accompanying harmony (the upper staff). Each chord has E as its top note (an inverted pedal) and the chords are often quite dissonant as a result, with several added notes (e.g. major 7ths).
(5:50) Second Development (fig. 8, starting at the 3rd beat of the bar): A plaintive oboe solo floats over a complex discord in the strings (a dominant minor 9th with E as its root, together with a G natural false relation in the upper 1st violin part). After a florid interjection by the guitar (6:00) rising triplet scales), this is repeated (6:10) a lower tone. The woodwind then play (6:26) a variant of what the guitar played at the second bar of fig. 6, touching on F minor and G minor in the second and third bars of fig. 9. The strings then build up a dominant minor 9th chord with E as its root (this chord is in 1st inversion), preparing for the longer second cadenza.
(6:57) Second Cadenza (fig. 10) This is based on the same material as the first cadenza, but it is greatly extended and is more virtuosic in nature. Although it is written out in full, it has an improvisatory character. The last three bars (8:44) are accompanied by pizzicato, unison G sharps in the strings.
(8:52) The Recapitulation starts 4 bars after fig. 11. Note that it is not in the tonic key, but in the dominant (F sharp minor), and that it is played by the full orchestra. The first 5 bars repeat the cor anglais melody (the principal theme) from the beginning of the movement, played in octaves by the violins and violas. The bass is from the guitar repeat of the principal theme (fig. 1). The woodwinds echo the first three notes of the principal theme. (9:26) At the ninth bar of fig. 11, the music is based on the variation of the principal theme (fig. 2), starting on a chord of D major. The melody is further varied but retains the basic outline, and the harmony descends as before. (10:06) At fig. 12 the cello motif from fig. 4 returns, played now by a solo flute. At the 3rd bar of fig. 12 (10:24), the guitar plays a contrapuntal variant of the beginning of fig. 5.
(10:48) In the first bar of fig. 13, starting at the 3rd beat, the music is marked by a piu tranquillo: this final passage of the movement finally takes the music back to the tonic (11:01), with the cor anglais playing the first note (F sharp) of its motif from the bar before fig. 5. This is then played in full by the solo guitar over a dominant chord, which resolves (11:13) onto B major (a Tierce de Picardie) with a rising arpeggio in the guitar. Note the natural harmonics notated in the cello and viola parts, and the false harmonics in the violins, in addition to the harmonics in the solo guitar part.
RCA Victor Basic 100 Volume 26 Rodrigo Concierto de Aranjuez, 1993.(INSPIRED)(Sound recording review)(Brief article)
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