The following program note first appeared in the Hollywood Bowl’s program magazine on August 1, 1968, when Joaquín Rodrigo’s Concierto Andaluz received its world premiere performance here at the Hollywood Bowl. Conductor Victor Alessandro led the Los Angeles Philharmonic with the Romeros appearing as the solo quartet.
Joaquín Rodrigo became blind at the age of three, but this affliction did not prevent him from studying music. In fact, music history knows blind organists and other instrumentalists who achieved fame as performers and arrangers. For a composer, however, to be deprived of sight is a seemingly insufferable handicap. The case of Frederick Delius comes to mind, but he lost his eyesight in his declining years, after he had made his mark as a composer.
Rodrigo was born in the small town of Sagunto de Valencia on November 22, 1902. He learned to play the guitar and improvised dancing tunes in the Spanish vein. He listened eagerly to music of Debussy, Ravel, and Manuel de Falla, and acquired a flair for colorful harmonies. He made a journey to Paris where he studied composition with Paul Dukas, the great master of the impressionist musical palette. Dukas thought highly of Rodrigo’s musical gift and helped him in his first steps in composition.
Early in the century, a Spanish composer in Paris was expected to write music more intensely Hispanic than at home. The saying went that the best Spanish composers were French. Indeed, it would be difficult to find anything more Spanish than the Andalusian dances in Bizet’s Carmen, Chabrier’s España, Debussy’s Ibéria, or Ravel’s Boléro. His student years over, Rodrigo returned to Spain and devoted himself to composition. There he wrote his most successful work, Concierto de Aranjuez, for guitar and orchestra. (Aranjuez is a picturesque town in a fertile plain in Spain where it never rains in vain, for its asparagus and strawberries are highly prized.)
Rodrigo’s Concierto Andaluz for four guitars and orchestra, written for the quartet of guitarists, The Romeros, is a poetic evocation of Andalusia, with its sounds, its lights, the fragrance of its flowers. The Spanish rhythms vibrate in the Andalusian groves and instrumental colors sparkle in the Mediterranean sun, as the music of the guitars resounds in the air.
— Nicolas Slonimsky described himself as “legendary Russian-born American musicologist of manifold endeavors.” Most famous as a brilliant and wry lexicographer, he annotated programs for the Los Angeles Philharmonic during the 1960s and ’70s.