Music Joaquin Rodrigo
Walter A. Clark
  • LAST MODIFIED: 21 April 2021
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199757824-0291


Joaquín Rodrigo y Vidre (b. 1901–d. 1999) was born in Sagunto, in the province of Valencia, Spain, on 22 November 1901, the feast day of St. Cecilia, patron saint of music. Rodrigo was a productive composer for over six decades, and his roughly two hundred works include masterpieces for orchestra, chamber ensemble, chorus, solo voice, piano, and especially guitar, an instrument on which he was not proficient but the one with which his legacy is inextricably connected. Indeed, by far and away his most famous work is the Concierto de Aranjuez for guitar and orchestra, composed in 1938–1939 and premiered in 1940. The middle movement’s main theme has provided inspiration for a whole assortment of arrangements by jazz artists such as Miles Davis and Chick Corea, and it has often been quoted in music for film and television. The unfortunate consequence of this melody’s viral popularity, however, is that it has tended to put much of his other music in the shade. Rodrigo’s achievement is remarkable because he lost his eyesight at age three as a result of diphtheria. Fortunately, the family moved to the city of Valencia in 1906, where advanced institutions for educating the deaf and blind were located. He received excellent training in piano, violin, and composition, as well as in regular academic subjects. Rodrigo became proficient in reading Braille notation for both words and music. He would eventually use a machine to type up his musical ideas in Braille, which he would then dictate to an assistant to write out in conventional notation. The music would thereafter be played at the piano so that he could hear it and make any necessary changes. In 1927 he moved to Paris to continue his studies in composition with Paul Dukas, at the École Normale de Musique. It was during his years in Paris that he met and married Victoria Kamhi, a Sephardic Jewess from Istanbul who was studying piano there. Composer and wife returned to Spain for good in 1939, settling in Madrid after the end of the Spanish Civil War and on the eve of World War II. The successful premiere of the Concierto de Aranjuez cemented his reputation as a leading figure in Spanish music. He also became a music critic for Radio Nacional, the newspaper Pueblo, and he assumed administrative responsibilities for ONCE, the national organization for the blind. Rodrigo’s international reputation began to grow steadily during the 1950s, and he would be the recipient of numerous awards and honorary degrees, at home and abroad. He passed away at the age of ninety-seven, two years after Victoria. His legacy is preserved and promoted by the Fundación Victoria y Joaquín Rodrigo in Madrid (see online), which maintains his apartment as both a museum and a research archive. It is headed by the composer’s daughter, Cecilia (b. 1941).

Reference Works

Guides to research on Rodrigo are still few in number. The only book dedicated to surveying primary and secondary sources relating to Rodrigo is Clark 2021. Its appearance in a major series, i.e., the Research and Information Guides published by Routledge, is an indicator of the composer’s prominent position among musicians of the 20th century. Most of the biographies and books on Rodrigo contain catalogues and discographies that are useful, though the latter are very dated. The only book that functions as a sort of annotated catalogue is Gallego 2003. The Fundación in Madrid publishes catalogues of his works, which are updated every few years. Though encyclopedia or dictionary entries do not appear here, the reader is encouraged to consult the entries on Rodrigo by Raymond Calcraft in The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians (print and online versions) and the Diccionario de la música española e hispanoamericana (print only).

  • Clark, Walter Aaron. Joaquín Rodrigo: A Research and Information Guide. New York: Routledge, 2021.

    This guide includes a substantial biography, list of holdings of the archive of the Fundación Victoria y Joaquin Rodrigo in Madrid, an annotated bibliography of over 250 entries, and a list of the sources of Rodrigo’s writings that appear in compilations. Also includes a catalogue of his works, selected discography and videography, and a chronology of his life and times. It is the only book of its kind and an indispensable resource for Rodrigo scholars.

  • Gallego, Antonio. El Arte de Joaquín Rodrigo. Madrid: Sociedad General de Autores y Editores, 2003.

    This could be described as a sort of annotated catalogue, in that it presents Rodrigo’s works, i.e., his “art,” in their entirety, laid out in chronological order and described in terms of their genesis and basic musical characteristics. The “analyses” are neither very technical nor illustrated with musical examples, so that this book will appeal to the nonspecialist. However, it is full of useful information and the most comprehensive examination of its kind.

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