WEDNESDAY, March 4, 2020
Joaquín Rodrigo (22 November 1901 – 6 July 1999) – Concierto de Aranjuez
There are about a bazillion recordings of this, so I just had to pick one. What I like about this recording – and let me stress my complete ignorance about guitar – is that the guitar is more prominent, and in fact it is a bit to the right. When the cor anglais comes in, it’s like a duet between those two instruments.
Popular for almost 80 years…
Here is something that was immediately popular from the year it was composed, 1939, until right now.
I wish I could find the whole thing in one file, because I could only find the whole concerto broken up into three files, one each for each movement, but this not a bad thing because you can play each movement and hear when it ends.
solo guitar, it is scored for an orchestra consisting of 2 flutes, piccolo, 2 oboes, cor anglais), 2 clarinets in Bb, two bassoons, 2 horns in F, two trumpets in C, and strings.
I. Allegro con spirito, D major…
It starts with a 40-measure introduction for solo guitar. The meter is 6/8. The theme full of hemiolas. In simple words, you have music that appears to be in 2/4 or 4/4, but suddenly it sounds like it’s in 3/4. You can enlarge the concept to anything that stays in steady meter, on the page, but that changes to the ear. For instance, if you are in 4/4, you will have 16 beats in three measures. If you then something written obviously in 3/4, but it stays in 4/4 on the page, you will hear four measures of 3/4. Beethoven was one of the first composers to not only use this idea but also to make it really important.
II. Adagio, B minor.
This is the famous part that millions of people know. The theme has been used and adapted by countless composers. For instance, Miles Davis used it. So it has been used in so called “classical music”, but also in jazz and pop.
Note the total change in mood…
You can read about why this is so sad, but you don’t need to know anything about music, or theory. This us the same idea that Mozart used all the way back in the 1780s or so. At that time everything was in major, but composers who wanted to express loss or despair turned to minor in the slow movements. And they often used the relative minor key, which is what Rodrigo did. D major uses two sharps in the key, and so does B minor. But the feeling is very different.
It ends on a major chord, B major, and that is a trick that goes all the way back to Bach. You write in minor, then change to major on the last chord, sort of a feeling of hope. This is called a “picardy third“.
III. Allegro gentile, B major, D major…
It begins with the guitar playing in B major, but the orchestra then moves back to D major. B major is the parallel major key, meaning that the “mode” changes but the key does not.
It alternates between 3/4 and 2/4. You hear something called “3 +3+ 2” time, meaning that even thought there are 8 beats in a unit, you hear 3, then 3 then 2 more. This kind of rhythm was very rare until until the 20th century.
Countless musicians have used the second movement of this concerto in all sorts of ways. I was looking for a recording conducted by Domingo with a famous guitarist and ran into the recording below by accident. I didn’t recognize more than a couple words, but a friend helped me track down what he sings, and I took time to translate some of it.
Junto a ti, al pasar las horas oh mi amor
Hay un rumor de fuente de cristal
Que en el jardin parece hablar
En voz baja a las rosas
Dulce amor, esas hojas secas sin color
Que barre el viento
Son recuerdos de romances de un ayer
Huellas y promesas hechas con amor, en Aranjuez
Entre un hombre y una mujer, [en un atardecer]
Que siempre se recuerda
Next to you, as the hours pass oh my love
There is a murmur from [a] crystal fountain
That seems to speak in the garden
in a whisper to the roses
Sweet love, those dry leaves without color
That the wind sweeps away
Are memories of romances of a yesterday
impressions and promises made with love, in Aranjuez
Between a man and a woman, [in a sunset]
That you always remember