I give piano lessons in N4 locations such as Finsbury Park, Manor House, Stroud Green and Harringay. I also venture further to N8 (Crouch End, Turnpike Lane, Hornsey) and Muswell Hill (N10).
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Proving disability is no barrier
Joaquin Rodrigo may not necessarily be a name that instantly comes to mind when one thinks of Classical music - compared to other twentieth century composers, he may have had a lower profile, and while his works may not have been as well-known in the mainstream as those of others, he did, however, write one that attained iconic status, and which elevated the role of the guitar in the eyes of the classical music world.
What made Concierto de Aranjuez impressive was that Rodrigo had been trained as a pianist, but had succeeded, without having played the guitar, in writing a work where the guitar and orchestra were treated as equal partners.
Previous concertos by generations of classical composers had tended to feature instruments such as the piano, violin or other orchestral instrument in the soloist role. These instruments were already well-established and accepted in the classical music circle. The guitar, on the other hand, tended to be viewed as a folk music instrument. Its exclusion from classical music works was testament to this. Rodrigo succeeded in bringing the guitar from the folk music periphery into the mainstream. Oh, and as if writing for an instrument one did not play wasn't enough of a challenge, Rodrigo also happened to have been blind since the age of three, and laboriously dictated his music to a copyist and then listened to a pianist play it back in order to verify it had been accurately transcribed.
The Concierto de Aranjuez was inspired by the gardens at Palacio Real de Aranjuez. Rodrigo described his intentions behind the concerto as to evoke "the fragrance of magnolias, the singing of birds, and the gushing of fountains" in the gardens. The haunting second movement with the cor anglais theme is the part of the work most people will remember, and while for years listeners assumed it had been inspired by the bombing of Guernica, Rodrigo's wife Victoria later revealed it was Rodrigo's way of encapsulating the happier times of their honeymoon and also his response at an earlier miscarriage.
Rodrigo joins a list of musicians and performers who did not let disability stop them from pursuing successful music careers. Ludwig van Beethoven continued composing even as he gradually lost his hearing and finally became deaf. Robert Schumann did not let a hand injury stop him from pursuing a career in composing. The singer Stevie Wonder had a successful performing career and played keyboards despite being blind. And while not a musician, we could take a moment to reflect on the achievement of Jean-Dominique Bauby, the French journalist who suffered a paralysing stroke and painstakingly "dictated" his memoir, The Diving Bell and the Butterfly, by blinking his left eyelid to select a letter of the alphabet recited to him. It took four hours a day and ten months to complete the book; which required 200,000 blinks to write. An average word took approximately two minutes to construct.
If only we could recall these instances of dedication to creative art, to inspire us on our own journey!
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