Francisco Tárrega (1852-1909) - composer and arranger for guitar

Francisco Tárrega photo 1 Francisco Tárrega was an influential Romantic-era composer and guitarist. He did much to promote the guitar as a solo instrument in concerts and recitals and became known as the "the father of classical guitar". Tárrega was born in Villarreal in Northern Valencia in Spain, and an early influence on his future career was his father who played guitar. By all accounts his childhood was not altogether happy or stable. He injured his eyes as a boy and his father enrolled him in music classes with blind teachers, fearing that his son might also lose his sight. The young guitarist also seemed to have a habit of running away both from home and from school and made his own way for a time in Barcelona and Valencia. Nevertheless as a teenager he had become skilled in the guitar and the piano, and in 1874 he entered the Madrid conservatory to study composition, and was persuaded to drop the piano and focus solely on the guitar.

Francisco Tárrega photo 2 By the late 1870s, Tárrega was both teaching the guitar and giving regular concerts locally. This led to various tours of Spain and he started to compose and perform some of his own works for the instrument. He met and later married María José Rizo and toured other countries within Europe visiting both Paris and London for example. It is said that he composed Lagrima (meaning "teardrop") while feeling homesick in London. To broaden his repertoire and no doubt to better engage with European audiences he became an avid transcriber and arranger of works by other classical composers including Handel, Bach, Joseph Haydn, Mozart, Beethoven, Schubert, Chopin, Mendelssohn, Schumann and others. In some ways Tárrega's music for guitar parallels the music of Isaac Albeniz for piano, in their blend of classical techniques with Spanish folk influences. The two composers met and became friends in Barcelona where Tárrega settled under the patronage of a wealthy widow, Conxa Martinez. She took him to Granada, which inspired his to compose his most famous work Recuerdos de la Alhambra (Memories of the Alhambra), which he dedicated to his friend the French composer Alfred Cottin.

Francisco Tárrega's influence, compositions and transcriptions:

By the time of Tárrega's death in 1909 the guitar had become much more popular as a recital instrument, and other composers and performers were inspired to use the instrument. Many of his original compositions have become "standards" in the repertoire for the instrument and include:

Among Tárrega's transcriptions are the following. It should also be noted that it is not always straightforward to transcribe piano music for guitar, so considerable re-arrangement is sometimes required to adapt the music making it playable. In other cases Tárrega used themes by other composers as the basis of a different work, e.g. a "study" or "fantasy" or "set of variations".

There is an online Spanish digital library called the "Biblioteca Digital Hispánica" which stores scans of sheet music among other things. You can find sheet music by Tárrega using this search.

Francisco Tárrega - Recommendations:

Here are some sheet music suggestions for those interested in guitar music by Tárrega. All the music is available from Sheet Music Plus:

For those occasions when you simply want to listen to good guitar music played by the experts, here are some recommended CDs available from Amazon online stores.


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