Born on November 22, 1901 in Sagunto, near Valencia in southeastern Spain, Joaquin Rodrigo grew up amongst a family of three brothers and six sisters. His parents were landowners and his father a conservative politician with an appreciation for the arts, which allowed the young boy to develop an appreciation for music at a young age. Due to an attack of diptheria at the age of three, unfortunately, Rodrigo's eyesight was permanently damaged, and he eventually went completely blind.
At the age of five, Rodrigo moved to Valencia with his family; three years later, he began studying violin, piano, and later, composition, at the Conservatorio de Valencia with composer Francisco Antich. Rodrigo's first orchestral work, "Juglares", premiered in Valencia in 1924.
In 1927 Rodrigo moved to Paris to study at the Ecole Normale de Musique. There, under the tutelage of Paul Dukas and the influence of friends Manuel de Falla and Maurice Ravel, Rodrigo studied for five years. During this period, in which Dukas nurtured and encouraged Rodrigo's nationalistic style, Rodrigo gained international recognition with his first symphony, "Cinco Piezas Infantiles". Interestingly enough, it was through this piece that he came to know his future wife, Turkish pianist Victoria Kamhi. Rodrigo had sent "Cinco Piezas" to a conductor of the Wiesbaden Orchestra, and, despite several requests in Spanish and French to return the score, the conductor would not respond. Through a mutual friend, Kamhi was asked to translate Rodrigo's letter into German, after which the score was promptly returned. Rodrigo's gratitude towards Kamhi for "rescuing" his piece grew as the two became friends; they were married in January of 1933. Kamhi became Rodrigo's 'eyes' after their marriage--not only did she act as a scribe for the blind composer, but also collaborated with him on several pieces and adapted poetry for many of his songs.
During the Spanish Civil war (1936-39), Rodrigo and Kamhi lived outside of Spain, mainly in Salzburg and Paris. It was in Paris that Rodrigo completed his enormously popular "Concierto de Aranjuez" in 1939. After the war, the couple returned to Madrid--the work premiered the following year in Barcelona. Although some regard his return to Spain after the war as proof of his sympathy with the Franco regime, his daughter vehemently denies the theory(2).
That same year, Rodrigo accepted a teaching position at Madrid's Royal Conservatory of Music and became a music critic for the newspaper "Pueblo". Their daughter Cecilia was born in January of the following year.
The couple remained in Madrid for the rest of their lives--many years, compositions, professorships, awards, and honorary degrees later, Rodrigo was promoted to the status of 'noble' by Juan Carlos I in 1991. After the death of his wife in 1997, Rodrigo himself passed away at the age of 97 in July of 1999.