College of Charleston SCHOOL OF THE ARTS

International Piano Series Concert to Honor Spanish Composer Joaquín Rodrigo

Photo © Fundación Victoria y Joaquín Rodrigo

Rodrigo: A Life in Music is a program celebrating the life and music of Spanish composer Joaquín Rodrigo in sound, narration, and images, in honor of the 20th anniversary of the composer’s passing. Written by College of Charleston faculty members Paul Sánchez and Michael O’Brien and directed by Todd McNerney, this unique collaboration will include star faculty from the College’s Department of Music and Department of Theatre and Dance including Paul Sánchez, piano; Lee-Chin Siow, violin; vocalists Amanda Castellone, Saundra DeAthos-Meers, Kim Powell, Kayleen Sánchez, David Templeton; and Theatre faculty members Joy Vandervort-Cobb and Evan Parry. The performance also will feature renowned pianist Cahill Smith, who has been praised as having a “true gift…and with every advantage of the modern piano’s colors and shading…his coloring is beautiful.” (New York Concert Review). The concert will feature some of Rodrigo’s most famous music along with some lesser-known works. The repertoire will include “Dos Esbozoz” for violin and piano, “Cinco piezas infantiles” for double piano, and “Alsencias de Dulcinea” for five voices and piano.

The concert, part of the College’s International Piano Series, will take place on Tuesday, Oct. 29, 2019 at 7:30 p.m., in the Emmett Robinson Theatre, 54 Saint Philip St. General admission is $20 and FREE for College of Charleston students and employees. Purchase tickets ONLINE, at the door, by email, or by calling (843) 953-6315.

Joaquín Rodrigo (1901–1999) was a Spanish composer and a virtuoso pianist. His Concierto de Aranjuez is considered one of the pinnacles of Spanish music and of the guitar concerto repertoire.

Rodrigo was born in Sagunto (Valencia, Spain), and he 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, and harmony and composition from the age of 16. He wrote his compositions in Braille, and they were transcribed for publication.

Rodrigo studied music under Francisco Antich in Valencia and under Paul Dukas at the École Normale de Musique in Paris. After briefly returning to Spain, he went to Paris again to study musicology, first under Maurice Emmanuel and then under André Pirro. His first published compositions date from 1923. In 1943 he received Spain’s National Prize for Orchestra for Cinco piezas infantiles (“Five Children’s Pieces”), based on his earlier composition of the same piece for two pianos, premiered by Ricardo Viñes. From 1947 Rodrigo was a professor of music history, holding the Manuel de Falla Chair of Music in the Faculty of Philosophy and Letters, at Complutense University of Madrid.

His most famous work, Concierto de Aranjuez (for guitar and orchestra), was composed in 1939 in Paris for the guitarist Regino Sainz de la Maza. The central adagio movement is one of the most recognizable in 20th-century classical music, featuring the interplay of guitar with cor anglais. This movement was later adapted by the jazz arranger Gil Evans for Miles Davis’ 1960 album “Sketches of Spain.” The Concerto was adapted by the composer himself for Harp and Orchestra at the request of Nicanor Zabaleta and dedicated to Zabaleta.

The success of this concerto led to commissions from a number of prominent soloists, including Julian Lloyd Webber, for whom Rodrigo composed his Concierto como un divertimento for cello and orchestra; and James Galway, for whom Rodrigo composed his Concierto pastoral for flute and orchestra. In 1954 Rodrigo composed Fantasía para un gentilhombre at the request of Andrés Segovia. His Concierto Andaluz, for four guitars and orchestra, was commissioned by Celedonio Romero for himself and his three sons.

Rodrigo was awarded Spain’s highest award for composition, the Premio Nacional de Música, in 1983. In 1991 he was raised into the Spanish nobility by King Juan Carlos I with the hereditary title of Marqués de los Jardines de Aranjuez (English: Marquess of the Gardens of Aranjuez). He received the prestigious Prince of Asturias Award—Spain’s highest civilian honor—in 1996. He was named Commander of the Order of Arts and Letters by the French government in 1998.

Rodrigo married Victoria Kamhi, a Turkish-born pianist in 1933, and they had a daughter, Cecilia. He died in 1999 in Madrid at the age of 97, and his daughter succeeded him as Marquesa de los Jardines de Aranjuez.

(A more extensive bio for Rodrigo is available here.)


Born and raised in rural Alabama, pianist Cahill Smith has performed in major venues in the United States and abroad, including four performances at Carnegie Hall’s Weill Recital Hall, the PolyTheater in Chongqing, China, the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum’s Calderwood Hall in Boston, Cleveland Museum of Art, the Royal Dublin Society’s Concert Hall, the Aspen Music Festival’s Harris Hall, Minneapolis’ Orchestra Hall, Buffalo’s Kleinhan’s Music Hall, and Birmingham’s Alys Stephens Center. Smith has been featured as a concerto soloist with the National Ukranian Symphony Orchestra in Kiev, the Mongolian Symphony Orchestra in Hohhot, China, the Eastman Philharmonia, the Alabama Symphony Orchestra, the Chattanooga Symphony, the Butler Symphony Orchestra, the Mississippi Symphony Orchestra, the Montgomery Symphony Orchestra, and others.

His live and studio recordings have been broadcast on WQXR, New York’s Classical Music Radio Station and WSMC, Chattanooga Public Radio. Smtih gave his first recital at Carnegie Hall’s Weill Recital Hall in 2013 with a program dedicated entirely to works of Nikolai Medtner. Two years later, in a review of his 2015 solo recital in the same venue, New York Concert Review wrote, “The entire second half was devoted to a special ‘cause’ of Mr. Smith: the piano music of Nikolai Medtner […]. Here, Mr. Smith was in his element, revealing every twist and turn, every poignant repeat of the cyclic themes, with beautiful shimmering colors I haven’t heard since Gilels played the Sonata reminiscenza in Carnegie Hall in 1980.” Of another performance in 2011, the East Hampton Star wrote, “The unexpected gems of the afternoon were two of Nikolai Medtner’s Vergessene Weisen (‘Forgotten Melodies’), played by Cahill Smith. I was not familiar with these works, but in Mr. Smith’s hands they were absolutely endearing.”

Smith has given recitals and lectures on Medtner’s music at Yale University, the International Medtner Festival in London, UK, and a number of other universities in the United States. He completed his Doctorate of Musical Arts at the Eastman School of Music in 2014, where he served as the teaching assistant to Natalya Antonova. At Eastman, Smith was the inaugural recipient of the Douglas Lowry award for excellence in degree recital performance, won the Eastman Concerto Competition, and was awarded the Prize for Excellence in Teaching as a graduate assistant. He completed his master’s degree at the University of Michigan with Arthur Greene, and his bachelor’s degree at the University of Alabama at Birmingham with Yakov Kasman. Other piano teachers include Ann Schein, the late Betty Sue Shepherd, Ronald Shinn, and Margaret Moore. Smith serves on the piano faculty at Lee University in Cleveland, Tennessee, where he also serves as Artistic Director for the Lee University International Piano Festival and Competition. He is an active lecturer, competition juror, and masterclass presenter. Smith is a Yamaha Artist.


Paul Sánchez

Michael O’Brien

Todd McNerney

Amanda Castellone

Saundra DeAthos-Meers

Evan Parry

Kayleen Sánchez

Lee-Chin Siow

David Templeton

Joy Vandervort-Cobb

Housed within the College of Charleston School of the Arts, the International Piano Series is Charleston’s longest running, year-round program with a pure focus on piano. Consistent with the School’s mission, the series plays a distinctive role in the lives of students and the community by implementing excellence in the arts and education and cultivating piano music appreciation. 

For the rest of the 2019-2020 season, Artistic Director Paul Sánchez has assembled a variety of performances celebrating piano music and more:

Jan. 14, 2020: Adam Golka

“In Golka’s hands, the work was stunning, a revelation of the composer’s soul” (Chicago Sun-Times). Born and raised in Texas to a family of Polish musicians, pianist Adam Golka has won widespread critical and popular acclaim with his “brilliant technique and real emotional depth” (The Washington Post). A recipient of the Gilmore Young Artist Award and a fellowship from the American Pianists Association, he has performed with dozens of orchestras, from Seattle and Atlanta to BBC Scottish and Shanghai Philharmonic, and in recital at renowned venues and festivals.

March 3, 2020: ZOFO Piano Duo

ZOFO, which is shorthand for 20-finger orchestra (ZO=20 and FO=finger orchestra), also performs heart-pumping duet arrangements of famous orchestral pieces such as Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring, exploring the realms in which many composers first experienced their symphonic visions. They believe that the piano duet is the most intimate form of chamber music, with two musicians playing individual parts on one instrument in a complex, often beautiful choreography of four hands.

For more information about the season, visit: