Francisco Tarrega

Father Of Classical Guitar

"Tarrega - Influential Spanish composer and guitarist often considered the father of modern classical guitar..."

Although he played both piano and guitar, it was the guitar that really captured the young Francisco's heart and mind and to which he dedicated himself. Lucky for us as he is one of the most loved and played musicians in all of guitar history. It has been reported that he became uneasy if not in proximity to a guitar, such was his love and attachment to the instrument.

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Born in Spain in 1852, he took up guitar lessons at a very early age with a teacher in his town called Manuel Gonzalez. By the end of his life in 1909,  he had perhaps become the most influential and popular classical guitarist, along with Segovia, ever known. Making giant strides on the instrument, it wasn't long before the young Tarrega was performing concerts in his hometown of Villareal.

By the age of 22,  he was ensconced in the Madrid Conservatory where he studied both piano and guitar, and excelled in both harmony and composition. After his time at the conservatory he made a career from teaching and giving recitals. Although pre-disposed to the "small" setting of a salon rather than the larger concert hall, he played to very appreciative audiences and was much revered both in his native Spain and abroad.

Some say it was the use of flesh rather than nails, with the resultant lower volume that prevented him from playing in the larger concert halls. Others believe that it was the fact he suffered from ophthalmia  which made it difficult for him to perform at his best.

Having achieved virtuosity on the guitar he looked for more challenges when still a young man. He toured throughout Europe to rapturous acclaim. He also gained the professorship of guitar at both the Madrid and Barcelona universities where he exerted his influence and considerable knowledge for many years.

Indeed, some of his pupils have become very famous names in the world of classical guitar. These names include Pujol, Fortea, and Llobet. Tarrega was also responsible for improving the technique and posture on guitar.

He also vastly updated and improved the repertoire for guitar. Arranging both guitar pieces, and other classical tunes (that weren't written for the guitar) made them seem as though they had indeed been written for one. They included tunes from such musical luminaries as Bach, Beethoven, Schubert, Haydn and Schumann. Who could forget the luscious tunes of Albeniz and Granados?

It is said that when Albeniz heard Francisco's transcriptions of his tunes he thought that they belonged more to the guitar than the piano for which they were originally written. His own original tunes have become a staple of classical guitar and have stood the test of time over many decades. They have been described as "beautiful miniatures", and are excellent examples of perfect form in music.

Such tunes as Recuerdos de la Alhambra, Caprichio Arabe, Variaciones Sobre el Carnaval de Valencia and his beautiful Preludes, embody such timeless musical beauty, powerful in their emotional "pull" and dynamic in their musical energy. Check out this great little video on YouTube of Carlos Barbosa Lima playing Tarrega's La Alborada...

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Tarrega Sidebar - Did You Know?

He was almost drowned by his lunatic nursemaid in a poisoned stream when he was a little boy. It is said this act brought on his ophthalmia from which he suffered for the rest of his life. On the bright side, he topped the class in harmony and composition at the Madrid Conservatory of Music when he was 23 years old.

Without Francisco Tarrega, the classical guitar would be that much less appealing. With his music and tireless pedagogy we have a repertoire that is both credible and has enormous popular appeal. This has allowed the guitar to flourish as one of the most popular instruments of all time.

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Here's something he wrote, a great little etude...

Additionally, here are a few related resources in which you may be interested...

Here's some more information about classical guitar composers...

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