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Fantasía para un gentilhombre


While Rodrigo gave the world its first modern masterpiece for guitar and orchestra, it was Andrès Segovia, as a performer, who kick-started the guitar’s entry onto the world stage. His influence can hardly be underestimated, and the range of compositions edited by, or specifically composed for him is extensive and influential. Segovia was forced to leave Spain during the Spanish Civil War and was thus not available to champion the Concierto de Aranjuez. In fact he never played the work, although he claimed to like it. On being asked by Charles Ramirez why he had not played it, he commented that he felt some of the guitar part was not well written, being too high to bring out the true sonority of the guitar. However, Rodrigo did write the Tres piezas españolas and, more importantly, the Fantasía para un gentilhombre specifically for Segovia in 1954. Rodrigo’s wife, Victoria Kamhi describes the genesis of the Fantasia:

It was in 1951 that Segovia asked Joaquín for a new concerto for guitar and chamber orchestra. In order to exchange ideas, he came one summer afternoon to our chalet in Torrelodones and stayed to have supper…After the triumph of Concierto de Aranjuez in Paris, Joaquín felt no great desire to compose another concerto, and he postponed the work. One day, however, he told me that he had thought it over and that he would write a “Suite” on themes collected by Gaspar Sanz, the famous guitarist of the court of Felipe IV. The title would be Fantasía para un gentilhombre, and he would also dedicate it to Andrés Segovia, whom he greatly admired, as a tribute…At Christmas, Andrés Segovia unexpectedly came to our house, asking to look over the score…Just as I was accompanying him at the piano in the first measures, there was a power failure, and the whole apartment was plunged into darkness. Thanks to two candles, we surmounted the difficulty. The work played marvellously under the great artist’s fingers, and the tenuous light lent an archaic atmosphere, very fitting, above all for the ‘dance of the torches’.

Gaspar Sanz was a seventeenth-century composer, priest and guitarist, particularly renowned for his three-volume pedagogical treatise on the classical guitar, Instrucción de musica sobra la guitarra española. Rodrigo selected a number of themes by Sanz, expanding them into a 20-minute concerto for guitar and orchestra, uniting Segovia and Sanz through the centuries with the marriage of ancient dances and his own brand of twentieth-century lyricism. The gentleman of the title is normally assumed to be Segovia, but presumably also refers to Sanz as a ‘gentleman’ of the court. The first performance of the work, on March 5 1958, with the San Francisco Symphony under the baton of Enrique Jordá, was a great success for both composer and soloist.

from notes by M Ross © 2011


Rodrigo: Concierto de Aranjuez & other works
SIGCD244Download only


Movement 1: Villano y Ricercare
Movement 2: Españoleta y Fanfare de la Caballería de Napoles
Movement 3: Danza de las hachas
Movement 4: Canario

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