In August of 1938, Joaquín Rodrigo was invited to give classes at the University of Menéndez Pelayo in Santander, which had just opened its doors. The title chosen for the three conferences was Instrumental music in the Imperial Courts of Spain.
Portrait of Joaquín Rodrigo in Salzburgo, at the time he composed the Concierto de Aranjuez.
In September of 1938, I was in San Sebastián on my return to France. (...) It was during a dinner organized by the Marqués de Bolarque with Regino Sainz de la Maza and myself. We ate well and the wine was not bad at all; it was the right moment for audacious fantasizing. (...) All of a sudden, Regino, in that tone between unpredictable and determined which was so characteristic of him, said:
-Listen, you have to come back with a 'Concerto for guitar and orchestra'- and to go straight to my heart, he added in a pathetic voice: -it's the dream of my life- and, resorting to a bit of flattery, he continued: -This is your calling, as if you were 'the chosen one'.
I quickly swallowed two glasses of the best Rioja, and exclaimed in a most convicing tone:
-All right, it's a deal!
The scene has remained engraved in my mind, because that evening constituted a pleasant memory in my life, and a moment of calm in those times that were not at all peaceful for Spain and indeed threatening for Europe.
I also remember -I don't know why but everything related to Concierto de Aranjuez has stayed in my memory-, that one morning several months later, standing in my small studio on Rue Saint Jacques in the heart of the Latin Quarter, vaguely thinking about the concerto, which had become a fond idea given how difficult I judged it to be, when I heard a voice inside me singing the entire theme of the Adagio at one go, without hesitation. And immediatly afterwards, without a break, the theme of the third movement. I realized quickly that the work was done. Our intuition does not deceive us in these things...
If the Adagio and the Allegro were born of an irresistible and supernatural inspiration, I arrived at the first movement after some thought, calculation and determination. That was the last movement I composed; I finished the work where I should have started it.
From Escritos de Joaquín Rodrigo
Back in Paris, the Rodrigos began to consider their definitive return to Spain, once the country was living in peace. On April 1st., 1939, the Spanish Civil War ended. Rodrigo received a letter from Manuel de Falla proposing a job as Professor of Music at the University of Granada or Seville. In addition, Antonio Tovar offered him a post in the Music Department of Radio Nacional in Madrid. They opted for the second offer. On September 4rd., 1939, two days after the Second World War broke out, they crossed the Spanish border. Within their meagre luggage, they carried with them the original manuscript in braille of Concierto de Aranjuez.
159 Rue Saint-Jacques, Paris, as it is today. Rodrigo’s home at the time he composed Concierto de Aranjuez.
The trunk in which the Rodrigos carried the braille manuscript of Concierto de Aranjuez on their return to Spain in 1939.
Braille manuscript of Concierto de Aranjuez. First page of the first movement.