What’s Wrong with the World

The men signed of the cross of Christ go gaily in the dark.


What’s Wrong with the World is dedicated to the defense of what remains of Christendom, the civilization made by the men of the Cross of Christ. Athwart two hostile Powers we stand: the Jihad and Liberalism...read more

MCMYCL - 1939 (revised & updated)

Joaquin Rodrigo (1901 - 1999) (!) was born in Valencia. He was blinded by diphtheria at the age of three.

Yet he lived to become the greatest Spanish composer since Tomas Luis de Victoria (1548-1611), and the greatest of all composers of music for the guitar.

Despite my partiality to a number of Rodrigo's other works, I cannot deny that pride of place goes to his first guitar concerto, the famous Concierto de Aranjuez, composed in 1939. And despite my partiality to its opening Allegro con spirito, I cannot deny that pride of place goes to the following Adagio - even if it did end up getting transformed into a sort of "pop hit."

For once, I'm going to go with a preexisting YouTube video, instead of making my own. Here's part 1:

And here's part 2:

The Academy of St Martin in the Fields, directed by Sir Neville Marriner, accompanies guitarist Pepe Romero.

Sadly, as the poster of these videos points out, the greatest guitarist of the age, Rodrigo's close contemporary Andres Segovia (1893-1987) (!), "did not take it very well that the dedication, the premiere, and the first popularity of this gem were directed to other hands." So he never recorded it.

But Romero's playing is so good and his insight into the piece so deep that one scarcely misses what might have been. And here I must ask - indeed, beg you, since YouTube won't let me embed this video, to follow this link, wherein Romero reveals what's really going on here.

Due to the year of composition, some have speculated that this great elegy might have had something to do with the Spanish Civil War. But, in fact, it represents Rodrigo's personal argument with God over the death of his still-born child, as Romero explains in detail, in a running commentary on his performance of the piece.

If the scenes of Rodrigo and his beloved wife, Victoria, in late old age, remembering long-ago sorrows, do not bring a tear to your eye, than nothing will.

Comments (11)

Steve, imagine my surprise at finding this post after I have had the adagio of Rodrigo's great Concierto stuck in my head all afternoon. Driving around Orland does that to me. It's a moving, beautiful story, as well. Must be springtime.

It's very beautiful.

I'm just going to go ahead and admit ignorance: What is the relation of the vocals in the video here, Steve, to the purely instrumental piece in the other video about the history? Were the words written by someone completely different?

Lydia, the lyrics are a re-interpretation written by Guy Bontempelli, probably much later (though I can't find any sources).

Thanks Lydia for linking to this wonderful piece of music, downloading on Itunes as I type !!!!

Not me, Jack. All Steve Burton.

Thanks, Jeff.

whoos mea culpa, thanks Steve

Jeff - I used to be much inclined towards musical "formalism," which denies the value of expressive content in music, seeing it as a sort of impurity - an intrusion of the literary into a realm that ought to remain perfectly abstract.

But there's just no getting around the fact that hearing this piece as a lament for a lost son completely transforms the experience of it - and in a good way.

Lydia - as Jeff observes, the lyrics of the pop version are much later - and wholly unrelated to Rodrigo's original expressive intentions, so beautifully set forth in Pepe Romero's commentary.

jack - no problem! just be sure to download *the whole thing* - the wonderfully piquant first movement & thoroughly joyous finale - in addition to the great central Adagio.

I've always liked this piece, but unfortunately it never fails to bring to mind Ricardo Montalban and "reech Coreenthian leather."

I read a review somewhere of a transcription for harp of this concerto -- that would be interesting to hear, I think.

Rob G - that thirty second commercial is 35 years old.

Please try to put it out of your mind.

"Please try to put it out of your mind."

Repeated exposure during childhood has caused permanent lasting damage, I'm afraid. Ditto for Eric Carmen's use of Rachmaninov in "All By Myself," alas.

Post a comment

Bold Italic Underline Quote

Note: In order to limit duplicate comments, please submit a comment only once. A comment may take a few minutes to appear beneath the article.

Although this site does not actively hold comments for moderation, some comments are automatically held by the blog system. For best results, limit the number of links (including links in your signature line to your own website) to under 3 per comment as all comments with a large number of links will be automatically held. If your comment is held for any reason, please be patient and an author or administrator will approve it. Do not resubmit the same comment as subsequent submissions of the same comment will be held as well.