Turning Distress into Delight

Keith KettenringChristian Living, The Uncommon Journey

Inspiration for living comes from many sources. Winston Churchill motivates a nation through his passionate speeches. Writers give us stories of people facing great odds and conquering them.  The courage, sacrifice, and perseverance of humans says much to those who are listening.

About 25 years ago, I heard a classical piece that gripped my soul. I knew nothing of the composer nor the context of his writing. I just knew the music invited me to enter another world filled with intricate and intense beauty. It was as if the composer had opened his emotional vault and let out all the treasures of sorrow and joy he had stored for decades.

Little did I realize that is almost exactly what was happening.

When I researched the life of the composer, Joaquin Rodrigo, I discovered two significant contributors to his life and this particular piece of music. 1) He lost his sight when three years old (1904) meaning he had to compose in Braille, and 2) He and his wife Victoria suffered the miscarriage of their first child (1939) out of which he turned tragedy into beauty. He accepted what he was given, including gifts and suffering, and with years of transformative training created beautiful music which speaks to the human spirit everywhere.

Wikipedia has this information about Joaguin Rodrigo:

Rodrigo was born in Sagunto, Valencia, and completely lost his sight at the age of three after contracting diphtheria. He began to study solfège, piano and violin at the age of eight; harmony and composition from the age of 16. Although distinguished by having raised the Spanish guitar to dignity as a universal concert instrument and best known for his guitar music, he never mastered the instrument himself. He wrote his compositions in Braille, which was transcribed for publication.

His most famous work, Concierto de Aranjuez, was composed in 1939 in Paris for the guitarist Regino Sainz de la Maza. In later life he and his wife declared that it was written as a response to the miscarriage of their first child. It is a concerto for guitar and orchestra. The central adagio movement is one of the most recognizable in 20th-century classical music, featuring the interplay of guitar with cor anglais [English horn]

About Concierto de Aranjuez we learn:

The Concierto de Aranjuez was inspired by the gardens at Palacio Real de Aranjuez, the spring resort palace and gardens built by Philip II in the last half of the 16th century and rebuilt in the middle of the 18th century by Ferdinand VI. The work attempts to transport the listener to another place and time through the evocation of the sounds of nature.

According to the composer, the first movement is “animated by a rhythmic spirit and vigour without either of the two themes… interrupting its relentless pace;” the second movement ” represents a dialogue between guitar and solo instruments (cor anglaisbassoonoboehorn);” and the last movement “recalls a courtly dance in which the combination of double and triple time maintains a taut tempo right to the closing bar.” He described the concerto itself as capturing “the fragrance of magnolias, the singing of birds, and the gushing of fountains” in the gardens of Aranjuez.

Rodrigo and his wife Victoria stayed silent for many years about the inspiration for the second movement, and thus the popular belief grew that it was inspired by the bombing of Guernica in 1937. In her autobiography, Victoria eventually declared that it was both an evocation of the happy days of their honeymoon and a response to Rodrigo’s devastation at the miscarriage of their first pregnancy. It was composed in 1939 in Paris.

Listen for Yourself 

Here is the great Pepe Romero delighting us with his performance of Concierto de Aranjuez. (for you UnCommon Journey fans, notice this performance is brought to you by “Dr K” ????)  If you don’t have time to listen to the whole concerto, at least catch the 2nd movement starting at the 7:25 mark. Stunningly beautiful.

Click here to listen to classical guitarist Pepe Romero perform Concierto de Aranjuez 

The reason I include this as a Motley Christian blog post is to elevate the notion of taking what has happened (and is happening) to you and intentionally creating beauty from it. Be inspired by beauty and tragedy as Rodrigo was.

We all live with heartache, tragedy, disability, or sorrow trying to pull us down. At the same time, we are surrounded by beauty.

May Joaguin Rodrigo inspire you to take the next step forward conquering obstacles and composing a beautiful life.