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Joaquín Rodrigo

Prince of Asturias Award for the Arts 1996

Joaquín Rodrigo Vidre (Sagunto, Valencia, Spain, 1901 – Madrid, Spain, 1999), Marquis of the Gardens of Aranjuez, was one of the most outstanding composers in Spanish music of all time. Blind from the age of three as a result of a diphtheria epidemic, he left for Paris in 1927, imitating other great musicians, and there he met Manuel de Falla, whose friendship and support were decisive in his career. He also studied composition in Paris under Maestro Paul Dukas at the Ecole Normale de Musique. He married the pianist Victoria Kamhi in 1933 and in 1939 settled for good in Madrid.

Later, after several stays in Spain (Valencia and Madrid), France (Paris), Austria and Germany, the couple subsequently settled in Madrid in 1939 on a permanent basis. In 1940, he presented his work, written in Paris, Concierto de Aranjuez, for guitar and orchestra, which afforded him worldwide fame.

His vast musical output embraces works of very diverse genres: eleven concerts, works for voice and orchestra, choral and instrumental pieces, as well as music for the stage and films. His most outstanding works include Fantasía para un gentilhombre (1954), Concierto de estío (1944), Ausencias de Dulcinea (1948), Música para un códice salmantino (1953), Cántico de la esposa (1934), Invocación y danza, homenaje a Manuel de Falla (1961) and El hijo fingido (1955-1960). Some of his most important works were performed for the first time outside of Spain, such as Concierto madrigal for two guitars and orchestra, in Los Angeles, and Concierto pastoral for flute and orchestra, Concierto como un divertimiento for cello and orchestra, and Cántico de San Francisco de Asís for flute and orchestra, in London. On 17th July 1990, he gave the first performance of his work Líricas Castellanas in El Escorial, in the presence of HM Queen Sofía, to whom the work is dedicated. He also founded and held the Manuel de Falla Chair in Music (since its creation in 1952 and until his retirement in the 1970s) at the Complutense University of Madrid (from the academic year 1947-1948), as well as working actively and intensively as an academic, artist, speaker and pianist.

Member of the Royal Academy of Fine Arts of San Fernando (1950), of the Royal Academy of Sciences, Letters and Fine Arts of Belgium (1978), of the French Academie du Monde Latin (1968, he was awarded honorary doctorates by universities such as those of Salamanca, the Complutense of Madrid, Valencia and Alicante (all in Spain), the university of Exeter (UK) and the University of Southern California (USA). Among many other distinctions, tributes and honours, he was the holder of the Grand Cross of Alfonso X the Wise (1953) and that of Civil Merit (1966), the Gold Medal for Merit at Work (1996) and in Fine Arts (1980), as well as being a Chevalier of the French Legion of Honour (1963) and receiving the National Music Award on two occasions (1942 and 1982). In 1998, the French Government named him Commander of the country’s Order of Arts and Letters, and that same year he received the Best Classical Music Composer Award from Spain’s General Society of Authors and Editors (SGAE). Awarded the Gold Medal at the Granada Festival in 1999, following his death the Spanish government appointed a national committee to organize the commemorative acts of the Joaquín Rodrigo centenary celebrations.

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