Fantasía para un gentilhombre

Joaquín Rodrigo (1901-1999)
Fantasía para un gentilhombre

  1. Villano y ricercare
  2. Españoleta e fanfare de la caballería de Nápoles
  3. Danza de las hachas
  4. Canario

Rodrigo is best known for having written what is probably the most popular piece of classical guitar music: the Concierto de Aranjuez. But my favourite is one of his less prominent works.

Fantasía para un gentilhombre (Fantasia for a gentleman) was written in 1954 for the guitarist Andrés Segovia, the gentleman of the title. The piece uses themes from short dances for solo guitar by the 17th century Spanish composer, Gaspar Sanz (1640-1710), and the movements retain the names that Sanz originally gave them. Rodrigo took these themes, arranged them for guitar and orchestra, and expanded them to produce over twenty minutes of music.

The opening movement gives an idea of what is to follow – it repeats Sanz’s theme many times, varying it so that it never becomes tiresome. This is the form of the other movements of the work. The music also hints subtly at themes used in the subsequent movements. The second section of the movement has the form of a fugue – the Ricercare was a type of fugal composition in the 17th century.

Next comes the sorrowful Españoleta. This contrasts with the more upbeat Fanfare for the Cavalry of Naples which forms the middle section. The Españoleta then returns to conclude the movement.

Then follows a complete change of mood with the Danza de las hachas, or Candledance. This lively, short movement is in effect an interlude linking the more mournful part of the Fantasía with the cheery Canario, which forms the concluding movement. Canario is probably the most popular movement, and is occasionally heard in Sanz’s original form under the title Canarios. The name means Canary; the music represents a type of dance popular in the Canary Islands, but is also influenced by the Canary – bird calls are evident towards the end.

The Fantasía is highly inventive, and combines the courtly mood of 17th century Spanish music with the best of twentieth century music and modern virtuoso guitar playing. Its upbeat ending reminds us to look on the bright side of life.

4 responses to “Fantasía para un gentilhombre”

  1. Fabio

    Great concerto for guitar! Rodrigo was a great musician and he is my favorite spanish composer.

  2. Ralph Holden

    This concerto is definitely one of my ‘Desert Island Disks’ (and of course – Aranjuez) – I could spend my time trying to play this fantastic guitar piece and learn this exceptionly beautiful music – thank you Senhor Rodrigo

  3. Chris Deile

    Thanks for this informative page. Ekachai Jearakul has an enjoyable performance on YouTube, just happened upon it after noticing Ana Vidovic will be performing Fantasia para un gentilhombre in Austin, TX in 2023. The Wiki page explains the bird sounds are in homage to the Canary Islands but that the islands are actually known more for wild dogs than birds. Hadn’t known that even though having visited Tangier, Morocco in 1984. One other thing, lucked out years ago with a front row seat for Ana Vidovic at the University of Wyoming (due to a snowstorm) and was so close I could see her eyes fluttering with excitement when playing Asturias. Carl Palmer from Emerson, Lake and Palmer has a good live audio clip of the fourth movement “Canario” on YouTube as well.

  4. Chris Deile

    Oops–small correction from my 17 May 2022 post re; Ana Vidovic:…I could see her eyelashes fluttering….not her eyeballs–that would have been scary.

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