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Views And Reviews: Rodrigo’s Concierto de Aranjues

Paul Serotsky introduces Rodrigo’s Concierto de Aranjues – not his finest work by a long chalk, but probably the most tuneful, engaging, evocative and colourful.

To read more of Paul’s satisfying and illuminating words on great music please click on Views And Reviews in the menu on this page.

In spite of being left virtually blind by a dose of diphtheria, Rodrigo became the Twentieth Century’s most acclaimed and honoured Spanish composer and teacher. Most of us know the Adagio from his Concierto de Aranjuez, some of us the whole work, but, it seems, scarcely a soul knows even a few of his many works. Why? It’s obvious – according to Julian Bream, “The success of Concierto de Aranjuez has somehow eclipsed Rodrigo’s other works.”

That “somehow” is no mystery: it isn’t his finest work by a long chalk but, despite the “Fantasia para un Gentilhombre”, it’s probably the most tuneful, engaging, evocative and colourful. Yet, the broadcast media (in particular) insist on promoting the Adagio in isolation, even though the remainder is less than half the work. Again, why? Beats me – there’s no good reason. On its own, the Adagio is like a picture without its frame.

Yet, really, that “frame” is indispensable, because it provides the complement and contrast to really bring the “picture” to life. The Adagio’s sultry Spanish sunset opens with the guitar accompanying a cor anglais. Whilst orchestral lines breathe deeply and evenly the soloist, like some minstrel, spins improvisatory arabesques around the notes of the melody. By contrast, a conforming soloist leads off both sides of the “frame”, brass button-bright with pin-sharp orchestral attack echoing the guitar – even the winds sound “plucked”. Tingling with vitality, ear-catching motivic materials glint kaleidoscopically over and within the first movement’s toe-pleasing strumming and the finale’s toe-teasing syncopations. In my book, this is well worth ten minutes of anybody’s time.

© Paul Serotsky

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