Wednesday, November 21, 2007

November 22: Joaquín Rodrigo Vidre (1901-1999)

The greatest source of inspiration is hard work. Of course, I also believe in inspiration itself, but sometimes you have to provoke it, call on it repeatedly, even though it may take a while.

--Joaquín Rodrigo
Born on this date in 1901, Spanish pianist and composer Joaquín Rodrigo Vidre (pictured at right, as a young man), in Sagunto, Valencia. He was blind from age three, after surviving diphtheria. Young Joaquín attended a school for blind children in Valencia, where he learned braille. He later studied music in Paris. He first achieved fame at the age of 23, when he won Spain's National Prize for composers.

Rodrigo is best known for his compositions for guitar, including "Concierto de Aranjuez" (1939). Miles Davis adapted part of this concerto for "Sketches of Spain" in 1960. There are YouTube video clips of the concerto being performed more traditionally here and here.

Rodrigo married fellow pianist Victoria Kamhi, and they had a daughter, Cecilia (b. 1941). He held the Manuel de Falla Chair in Music at the University of Madrid. Today, there is a Joaquin Rodrigo International Competition, held every two years in Madrid. The 2008 competition is for piano and violin performances; the 2010 competition will be for guitar and voice.

On November 3 this year, his work (including the Concierto de Aranjuez) was included on the Discoveries radio program, marking the 2007 Festival of Disability Arts and Culture in Philadelphia.

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