Maybe the best known classical piece in the world, because of all its versions in pop music. Try the second movement and you’ll know what I’m talking about. One of the few real guitar concerts, where a single guitar has to balance a full orchestra.
The piece was premiered in 1939, right after the Spanish Civil War and just months before the outbreak of the Second World War. Politically it was no threat to the new Francist government. It is mostly inspired by the gardens of the royal palace in Aranjuez, a place south of Madrid. The music is meant to evoke the lush gardens, the relaxing fountains and the song of birds.
This is by far Rodrigo’s most popular piece, if not the best known Spanish piece. He didn’t approve all the different versions that were made. When Miles Davis did his version in 1960, the record company neglected to ask Rodrigo for permission, and the composer was not amused.
Joaquín Rodrigo never played guitar: he was a pianist. Also, he was almost blind from the age of three. He was awarded many prizes in his life, but also got the title of Marquess of the Garden of Aranjuez by the King Juan Carlos I in 1991. He died eight years later, at a respectable 97.