Queen's counsel XXIX

January 2004

During our studies at Queens last term, we were asked to bring something that we could share with each other that spoke to us about Salvation, the module we were exploring then. Some brought personal stories, others reproductions of paintings (famous or otherwise) and a few brought recorded music. Each contribution was introduced and sometimes reflections were invited too. What would you turn to for comfort or inspiration?

I took the second movement of the Concierto de Aranjuez by Joaquin Rodrigo on the basis of a Channel 4 documentary "Rodrigo at 90" produced in 1991 or shortly afterwards. Apart from being the best-known work of his, it is a very beautiful piece and perhaps the one with the deepest meaning. This was explained on the film by the classical guitarist Pepe Romero who was a good friend of Rodrigo and who had spent time with him exploring the work in preparation for performing it.

Rodrigo was born in 1901 and was blinded at the age of three by a severe bout of diphtheria. In 1933, he married the Turkish pianist Victoria Kamhi and from then on looked out on the world through her eyes; they were a very loving couple. She also partnered him at the keyboard, transcribing his entire and considerable musical output. When their first child was stillborn, they were inconsolable and Rodrigo poured all his emotion into the second movement of his famous concerto.

It starts simply on the guitar with the quiet, regular heartbeat of the unborn child, draws the listener into the sadness of that death with sublime melodies to be shared around the orchestra. It captures the disbelief, the questioning, the outpouring of grief and the anger that Rodrigo and his wife experienced but it finally breaks through into peaceful acceptance of their sorrow and their release of the child's soul into the heart of God. The last notes are played as harmonics on the guitar getting higher and purer in tone until they alight in the calm of heaven it is a remarkable piece of music.

Go, silent friend,
Your life in Christ is buried;
For you he lived
And died and rose again.
Close by his side
Your promised place is waiting
Where, fully known,
You shall with God remain.
(Words by John Bell)



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