A Light in the Darkness

A Light in the Darkness

Joaquín Rodrigo (1901-1999) is best known as the composer of one of the most popular works of music in the twentieth century--the Concierto de Aranjuez for guitar and orchestra. It's been featured in movies and television commercials and remains a staple of concert programs for orchestras around the world. Miles Davis said, "After listening to it for a couple of weeks...I couldn't get it out of my mind," and he used it as inspiration for his album Sketches of Spain. But as Javier Suárez-Pajares and Walter Aaron Clark reveal in this musical biography--the first complete study in English--Rodrigo's work and influence extend far beyond that singular composition.

A Light in the Darkness takes us through Rodrigo's childhood in Valencia, the onset of blindness at the age of three, and the beginnings of his musical education. He achieved some early success in Spain as a composer before moving to Paris in 1927 to advance his studies, following in the footsteps of other eminent Spanish composers like Isaac Albéniz, Joaquín Turina, and Manuel de Falla. There he enrolled in courses with composer Paul Dukas, met the woman who would become his wife, and earned the respect and friendship of Falla, who became his champion. Along the way, Rodrigo's musical voice developed and matured as his horizons widened.

Suárez-Pajares and Clark present a definitive account of the making of Rodrigo's celebrated guitar concerto, even as they capture the breadth of Rodrigo's compositional output, from solo works for piano and guitar through chamber music and vocal works to concertos and orchestral pieces. As they demonstrate, Rodrigo's music is unmistakably Spanish, but with his own unique accent.

Rodrigo's life and career spanned a period of great tumult in Spain, and he had to navigate strong, shifting political and cultural currents--before, during, and after Franco. An authoritative life of one of the twentieth century's great musical geniuses, A Light in the Darkness becomes a stunning tale of how art gets made under even the most challenging circumstances.

Publication Date: 
April 23, 2024