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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 advice was to greatly influence his career. He also studied composition in Paris under Meastro Paul Dukas. He married the pianist Victoria Kamhi in 1933 and in 1939 settled for good in Madrid. In 1940, he presented his work, written in Paris, “Concierto de Aranjuez”, for guitar and orchestra, which afforded him worldwide fame.

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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, Concierto de estío, Ausencias de Dulcinea, Música para un códice salmantino, Cántico de la esposa, Invocación y danza and El hijo fingido. Some of his most important works were performed for the first time outside of Spain, such as Concierto madrigal, in Los Angeles, and Concierto pastoral, Concierto como un divertimiento and Cántico de San Francisco de Asís, in London. On 17th July 1990, he gave the first performance of his work Líricas Castellanas in El Escorial, in the presence of H.M. Queen Sofia, to whom the work is dedicated. He also founded and occupied the Manuel de Falla Chair at the Complutense University of Madrid, as well as working intensively as an academic, artist,  speaker and pianist. 

Member of the Royal Academy of Fine Arts of San Fernando, of the Royal Academy of Sciences, Letters and Fine Arts of Belgium, of the Academie du Monde Latin and of the Societé Européenne de Culture, he was awarded honorary doctorates by universities such as those of Salamanca, the Complutense of Madrid, Valencia, Alicante, Exeter and Southern California. 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 of Merit for Work (1996) and of 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 honored him with the title of Commander of the 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).

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