While it is true that Joaquín Rodrigo is known throughout the world for his Concierto de Aranjuez for guitar and orchestra, it is no less true that he has many other works of similar or greater quality.
Rodrigo played the piano. It is fair to say that he was a virtuoso pianist and he composed for that instrument, in addition to his Concierto para piano con orquesta, various works such as Preludio al Gallo Mañanero, Sonada de Adiós, in tribute to his maestro Paul Dukas, and, above all in my opinion, the Sonatas de Castilla con Toccata a modo de pregón. Among his vocal works, there are also some true gems such as Cántico de la esposa, which the composer considered to be his best work, his Villancicos, Cuatro madrigales amatorios and on and on, with a catalogue of more than 70 works. I would like to speak about his violin works. The violin was an instrument that he especially loved and learned to play at the outset of his studies of music. He used to tell me jokingly that he got as far as playing Beethoven’s Sonata Kreutzer.
The first work in his catalogue was precisely for violin and piano, Dos esbozos (Two sketches), subtitled “La enamorada junto al pequeño surtidor” (Young girl in love next to the small fountain), and “Pequeña Ronda” (Small round). In this short work there are clear signs of what will later be definitive of Joaquín Rodrigo: his exquisite sense of melody and that sparkle of humour which will shine later in his Sonata pimpante for violin and piano.
Later he wrote a small jewel in miniature: his Cançoneta for violin and string orchestra. A melody and a violin solo which consists of no more than 6 or 7 notes tenderly surrounded by part of the orchestra which serves to enhance and adds color to the violin solo. A short “masterpiece” 4 minutes long: brilliant.
There is another work, Rumaniana, which he wrote for his exam for the Royal Conservatory of Madrid on a theme of “Hora” provided by his wife Vicky. It bears the unmistakable Rodrigo stamp although it is really a circumstantial piece.
His Capriccio for solo violin, written in tribute to Sarasate, is extremely difficult to perform, but very inspired and scored, in my opinion, in a way that contributes greatly to the technique of the violin.
The Concierto de Estío for violin and orchestra is an extraordinary work. He told me he wrote the first movement thinking of Vivaldi, a composer he esteemed highly. Afterwards, there is one of his famous “Adagios” on a precious theme, with a ‘Siciliana’ rhythm and variations which he mixes with themes from the first and second movements in a masterly way that concludes with its “diabolical” cadence that is very suited to the violin and brilliant, coming back to the initial theme that is full of melancholy. The third movement, one sole theme full of devilish pranks in which he seemed to delight, awakens great enthusiasm in the public – something I have experienced in many of my performances. What a sense of humour and what high spirits characterized this great Maestro! I asked my father-in-law (Joaquín Rodrigo) to write a Sonata for me to conclude his recital; something of a very virtuoso nature and brilliant. And did he write one! "La Sonata pimpante”, increasingly performed throughout the world, is precisely what its title evokes: inspired, joyful, charming. I have only found two words which for me express the meaning of “pimpante”: In English, sparkling, and in French, perhaps “pétillante”. He also dedicated to me his Siete canciones valencianas, based on themes from the Valencian Cancionero, with many contrasts among them.
In all of Joaquín Rodrigo’s violin music we find the most characteristic traits of his personality in general and of his works in particular: brilliant radiance and melancholy, and of course great technical difficulty.
From these brief comments on Rodrigo’s violin and piano music you may guess what kind of relationship I had with the Maestro. I can not deny it. My infinite admiration and affection for this universal figure in the world of music are as sincere as they are real.