By the Beautiful Blue Danube Opus 314 Johann Strauss (II) Download 'By the Beautiful Blue Danube Opus 314' on iTunes
Rodrigo was the twentieth century’s most skillful exponent of writing for the guitar, as is amply proved by both the Concierto de Aranjuez and this, his Fantasia para un Gentilhombre.
It was, however, another composer to whom he looked for inspiration when composing this particular piece. The seventeenth-century Spanish priest and musician Gaspar Sanz, who was also a fine guitar player, put together a sort of guitarists’ manual in 1674. Given the not-so-catchy title of 'Instrucción de música sobre la guitarra española', it set out various dos and don’ts for guitar composition. Rodrigo was very open about the fact that Sanz’s tome had inspired him to write his Fantasia.
This zesty, dance-filled concerto owes its success not just to Sanz, but to the inclusion of all sorts of Baroque forms, which many other composers of Rodrigo’s day were disregarding. The Spanish dances of the villano, the españoleta and the tarantella all feature here, in a vividly depicted portrayal of musical sunshine. Rodrigo himself went blind at the age of three, but that never prevented him from composing intrinsically colourful music. On the contrary, he once commented, ‘The loss of vision was the vehicle that took me down the road to music.’
John Williams (guitar); Philharmonia Orchestra; Louis Frémaux (conductor). Sony: M2K 44791.
Illustration: Mark Millington