Joaquín Rodrigo Vidre, 1st Marquis of the Gardens of Aranjuez (Spanish: [xoaˈkin roˈðɾiɣo]; November 22, 1901 – July 6, 1999), commonly known as Joaquín Rodrigo, was a Spanish composer and a virtuoso pianist.
Rodrigo's music is among the most popular music of the 20th century. In particular, his Concierto de Aranjuez is considered one of the pinnacles of Spanish music and of the guitar concerto repertoire.
Rodrigo was born in Sagunto, Valencia, and almost completely lost his sight at the age of three after contracting diphtheria. He began to study solfège, piano and violin at the age of eight; harmony and composition from the age of 16. Although distinguished by having raised the Spanish guitar to dignity as a universal concert instrument and best known for his guitar music, he never mastered the instrument himself. He wrote his compositions in Braille, which was transcribed for publication.
Rodrigo studied music under Francisco Antich in Valencia and under Paul Dukas at the École Normale de Musique in Paris. After briefly returning to Spain, he went to Paris again to study musicology, first under Maurice Emmanuel and then under André Pirro. His first published compositions date from 1940. In 1943 he received Spain's National Prize for Orchestra for Cinco piezas infantiles ("Five Children's Pieces"), based on his earlier composition of the same piece for two pianos, premiered by Ricardo Viñes. From 1947 Rodrigo was a professor of music history, holding the Manuel de Falla Chair of Music in the Faculty of Philosophy and Letters, at Complutense University of Madrid. Notable students include Yüksel Koptagel, Turkish composer and pianist.
His most famous work, Concierto de Aranjuez, was composed in 1939 in Paris for the guitarist Regino Sainz de la Maza. In later life he and his wife declared that it was written as a response to the miscarriage of their first child. It is a concerto for guitar and orchestra. The central adagio movement is one of the most recognizable in 20th-century classical music, featuring the interplay of guitar with cor anglais. This movement was later adapted by the jazz arranger Gil Evans for Miles Davis' 1960 album "Sketches of Spain". The Concerto was adapted by the composer himself for Harp and Orchestra at the request of Nicanor Zabaleta and dedicated to Zabaleta.
The success of this concerto led to commissions from a number of prominent soloists, including Nicanor Zabaleta, for whom Rodrigo dedicated his Concierto serenata for Harp and Orchestra, Julian Lloyd Webber, for whom Rodrigo composed his Concierto como un divertimento for cello and orchestra, and James Galway, for whom Rodrigo composed his Concierto pastoral for flute and orchestra. In 1954 Rodrigo composed Fantasía para un gentilhombre at the request of Andrés Segovia. His Concierto Andaluz, for four guitars and orchestra, was commissioned by Celedonio Romero for himself and his three sons.
None of Rodrigo's works, however, achieved the popular and critical success of the Concierto de Aranjuez and the Fantasia para un gentilhombre. These two works are very often paired in recordings.
He was awarded Spain's highest award for composition, the Premio Nacional de Música, in 1983. On December 30, 1991, Rodrigo was raised into the Spanish nobility by King Juan Carlos I with the hereditary title of Marqués de los Jardines de Aranjuez (English: Marquis of the Gardens of Aranjuez). He received the prestigious Prince of Asturias Award—Spain's highest civilian honor—in 1996. He was named Commander of the Order of Arts and Letters by the French government in 1998.
He married Victoria Kamhi, a Turkish-born pianist whom he had met in Paris, on January 19, 1933, in Valencia. Their daughter, Cecilia, was born on January 27, 1941. Rodrigo died in 1999 in Madrid at the age of 97, and his daughter succeeded him as Marquésa de los Jardines de Aranjuez. Joaquín Rodrigo and his wife Victoria are buried at the cemetery at Aranjuez.