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For a work as seemingly Spanish as Rodrigo’s Concierto de Aranjuez, it initially seems bizarre that many people’s first encounter with it is forever linked to the fictional Yorkshire town of Grimley.
But the concerto’s use in the 1996 film Brassed Off! ensured that the love for this ever popular work became even more widespread. The miners affectionately referred to it as ‘Orange Juice’, after finding it rather challenging to pronounce ‘Aranjuez’. Miles Davis had also been inspired by the Concierto de Aranjuez, adapting it for his 1960 album Sketches of Spain.
For the original root of the work, we need to take a journey to Madrid. As Rodrigo himself explained about this beautiful piece for guitar and orchestra, ‘The Concierto de Aranjuez is named after the famous royal site on the shore of the River Tagus, not far from Madrid, along the road to Andalusia, and some perceive Goya’s shadow in the notes of its music, full of melancholic emotion. Its music seems to bring to life the essence of an eighteenth-century court, where aristocratic distinction blends with popular culture. In its melody the perfume of magnolias lingers, the singing of birds and the gushing of fountains.’
Julian Bream (guitar); City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra; Simon Rattle (conductor). EMI Classics: CDC 7546612.
Illustration: Mark Millington