Joaquin Rodrigo

About Rodrigo's Capriccio

One of the most established and popular Spanish composers of the 20th century, Joaquín Rodrigo (1901 – 1999) was blinded at very young age through illness. Though his principal instrument was the piano, he wrote for a variety of instruments, with several prominent works for orchestra, piano, and guitar.

His style is distinctively Spanish, with an unparalleled sophistication and elegance fused with a multitude of folk Spanish idioms. His best known works are actually for guitar. And his most enduring famous work is the Concierto de Aranjuez.

The one piece he wrote for solo violin is the “Capriccio,” written in 1944, in memory of the great Spanish virtuoso of the 19th century – Pablo de Sarasate and dedicated to 20th century violinist, Enrique Iniesta.

Find out more about Rodrigo at the official site here:

Louis XIV dans Le Ballet de la nuit by Henri de Gissey (1653)

About Bach's Sarabande from the Partita in D minor, BWV1004

The dance suites of the Baroque era (approx. 1600-1750) are surprisingly “international.” Typical were inclusions of Allemandes (German dance), Correntes (Italian dance), Loures, Gavottes, and Minuets (French court dances), Sarabandes (Spanish-Latin-American dance), and Gigues (Irish-British dance). These dances were adapted to suit the artistic and political needs of the French court – and thus the Baroque dance suite was created.

To contrast with the fiery Capriccio by Rodrigo, I’ve chosen the Sarabande from Bach’s Partita in D minor for solo violin (written around 1720).

Music in homage of Spanish idioms, spanning more than two centuries!

1895 poster from the original run of "Thaïs"

About Massenet's Meditation from "Thaïs"

Jules Massenet (1842-1912) was one of the great French opera composers of the late 19th century. Super-influential and popular during his time, the ever-popular “Meditation from ‘Thaïs”” is an instrumental excerpt from his opera, “Thaïs.”

Without going into the details of the plot of the opera from which this selection comes from, it’s important to note the psychological context of this beautiful and lyrical piece.

The heroine of the opera, Thaïs, is a courtesan/prostitute, and is persuaded by a monk to repent her ways and enter a convent. In the opera, the Meditation is performed  between Act II Scenes 1 and 2, where Thaïs makes the decision to cleanse her soul. The brilliant theatricality is that – instead of presenting drama on-stage – the off-stage Meditation presents Thaïs’ psychological/spiritual transformation. It is at once a dual representation of desire for transcendent spirituality and the struggle in letting go of materialistic hedonism.

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Spanish "Jota"

By Jesús Martín & Eugenio Rodríguez Méndez

This is an example of Spanish “Jota” dance music. I find this to be useful in placing the Rodrigo in some perspective.

Spanish "Fandango"

“Fandango 3” by Agrupación Coral de Bermeo

This is an example of Spanish “Fandango” dance music. I find this to be useful in placing the Rodrigo in some perspective.

Sarabande (reconstructed dance)

Charles Dieupart (1667-1740)

“Sarabande” from Les Six Suites, 1701 – Suite n° 6 en fa mineur pour clavecin ou (flûte ou violon et basse continue)

Il Giardino Armonico Giovanni Antonini (flûte); Enrico Onofri (violon); Vittorio Ghielmi (viole de gambe); Ottavio Dantone (clavecin); Kaspar Mainz (danse)

Choreographed by Musica et Saltatoria

Directed by Giovanni Antonini

from the DVD: ‘Music of The French Baroque’

This is an example of an scholarly reconstruction of the Sarabande as it may have been danced in the French court during the Baroque era. Wonderful for gaining perspective!