The world’s most popular classical guitar concerto, the “Concierto de Aranjuez” by Joaquin Rodrigo, had its first performance on today’s date in 1940, in Barcelona.
Joaquin Rodrigo was born in Spain in 1901 and lost his sight at the age of three. He wrote all of his music on a Braille music typewriter. The “Concierto de Aranjuez,” inspired by a small town of that name thirty miles south of Madrid, remains his signature piece, though he wrote a number of other successful works. Rodrigo died on July 6th, 1999, at the age of 97.
In 1959, a friend had played a recording of Rodrigo’s concerto for the American jazz trumpeter Miles Davis. Miles Davis said, “After listening to it for a couple of weeks, I couldn’t get it out of my mind.” So, Miles Davis played it for his friend, jazz composer and arranger Gil Evans, and in short order the two collaborated on their own 16-minute version of Rodrigo’s score. Their collaboration was included on their classic 1960 Columbia LP entitled “Sketches of Spain.”
At the recording session, Miles paid Rodrigo this compliment: “That melody is so strong that the softer you play it, the stronger it gets…”