On the occasion of the 4th centennial of the birth of Miguel de Cervantes in 1947, a competition was held which consisted of setting music to certain texts taken from Cervantes’ poetic compositions.
Joaquín Rodrigo entered the contest with his symphonic poem Ausencias de Dulcinea, for bass and four sopranos, with orchestra.He won the Prize and the work was premiered on April 19, 1948 at the Teatro Español in Madrid with Chano Gonzalo (bass), María de los Ángeles Morales, Carmen Pérez Durías, Celia Langa and Banca María Seoane (sopranos), accompanied by the National Orchestra of Spain, conducted by Eduardo Toldrá.
Victoria Kamhi tells the following story in her memoirs “Hand in hand with Joaquín Rodrigo”:
“About the first of June, 1969, we had a visit from Dr. Isao Takahashi, eminent oculist and promoter of the classical guitar in Japan. He had worked for eight years in Lambarene with Dr. Albert Schweitzer, and was broadly cultured. From our first meeting we formed a firm friendship. On this occasion he was accompanied by his wife, Take, a delightful person, and we chatted a while about one thing and another. As the door leading to the terrace was open, we could see flocks of swifts, swooping and darting in incessant flight, uttering their cheerful calls.
“How beautiful!” exclaimed Take, marvelling. “Why doesn’t Maestro Rodrigo write a work which would reflect the flight of these lovely birds, a symbol of spring?”
“Nothing easier”, replied Joaquín, smiling. “It will be a piece for the guitar, and I will dedicate it to you”.
“Magnificent! Then, the premiere will be in Tokyo, and on that occasion, we invite you to visit our country.”
Joaquín kept his promise, and three years later he sent his new work, Pájaros de Primavera (The Birds of Spring) to Tokyo, dedicating it to Mrs. Takahashi. But she was then critically ill, suffering from incurable cancer. She heard the work from her hospital bed, interpreted by a guitarist friend, on the eve of her death.
Dr. Takahashi also kept his word, and through his initiative, we were both engaged by the impresario Tetsuyi Matsuoka to make a concert tour of Japán. When, in every concert, we listened to this inspired piece played by the guitarist, Christopher Parkening, our hearts were filled with sadness.
The Birds of Spring (1972)