Francisco Tárrega

Francisco Tárrega

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Francisco de Asís Tárrega y Eixea (21 November 185215 December 1909) was an influential Spanish composer
Composer
A composer is a person who creates music, either by musical notation or oral tradition, for interpretation and performance, or through direct manipulation of sonic material through electronic media...

 and guitarist
Classical guitar
The classical guitar is a 6-stringed plucked string instrument from the family of instruments called chordophones...

 of the Romantic
Romantic music
Romantic music or music in the Romantic Period is a musicological and artistic term referring to a particular period, theory, compositional practice, and canon in Western music history, from 1810 to 1900....

 period.

Biography


Tárrega was born on 21 November 1852, in Vila-real
Vila-real
Vila-real is a city in the province of Castellón, in the Valencian Community, Spain. Located 7 km to the south of the province's capital , at 42 m above sea level, it has 51,367 inhabitants , most of them living in the urban area that covers about 10.72% of its county's 55.4 km2 surface...

, Castelló, Spain. It is said that Francisco's father played flamenco
Flamenco
Flamenco is a genre of music and dance which has its foundation in Andalusian music and dance and in whose evolution Andalusian Gypsies played an important part....

 and several other music styles on his guitar; when his father was away working as a watchman at the Convent of San Pascual the child would take his father's guitar and attempt to make the beautiful sounds he had heard. Francisco's nickname as a child was "Quiquet".

An infection permanently impaired his eyesight and when the family moved to Castelló
Castellón de la Plana
Castellón de la Plana or Castelló de la Plana is the capital city of the province of Castelló, in the Valencian Community, Spain, in the east of the Iberian Peninsula, on the Costa del Azahar by the Mediterranean Sea...

 the child was enrolled in music classes. Both his first music teachers, Eugeni Ruiz and Manuel González, were blind.

In 1862, concert guitar
Guitar
The guitar is a plucked string instrument, usually played with fingers or a pick. The guitar consists of a body with a rigid neck to which the strings, generally six in number, are attached. Guitars are traditionally constructed of various woods and strung with animal gut or, more recently, with...

ist Julián Arcas
Julián Arcas
Julián Arcas was a Spanish classical guitarist and composer. He was born in Almería and died in Malaga Spain.During the decade 1860–70 he performed all over Europe. He even performed for the Duke of Wellington and the Duke of Cambridge in 1862...

, on tour in Castellón, heard the young Tárrega play and advised Tárrega's father to allow Francisco to come to Barcelona to study with him. Tárrega's father agreed, but insisted that his son take piano
Piano
The piano is a musical instrument played by means of a keyboard. It is one of the most popular instruments in the world. Widely used in classical and jazz music for solo performances, ensemble use, chamber music and accompaniment, the piano is also very popular as an aid to composing and rehearsal...

 lessons as well. The guitar was viewed as an instrument to accompany singers, while the piano was all the rage throughout Europe. However, Tárrega had to stop his lessons shortly after, when Arcas left for a concert tour abroad. Although Tárrega was only ten years old, he ran away and tried to start a musical career on his own by playing in coffee houses and restaurants in Barcelona
Barcelona
Barcelona is the second largest city in Spain after Madrid, and the capital of Catalonia, with a population of 1,621,537 within its administrative limits on a land area of...

. He was soon found and brought back to his father, who had to make great sacrifices to advance his son's musical education.

Three years later, in 1865, he ran away again, this time to Valencia where he joined a gang of gypsies. His father looked for him and brought him back home once more, but he ran away a third time, again to Valencia. By his early teens, Tárrega was proficient on both the piano and the guitar. For a time, he played with other musicians at local engagements to earn money, but eventually he returned home to help his family.

Tárrega entered the Madrid
Madrid
Madrid is the capital and largest city of Spain. The population of the city is roughly 3.3 million and the entire population of the Madrid metropolitan area is calculated to be 6.271 million. It is the third largest city in the European Union, after London and Berlin, and its metropolitan...

 Conservatory in 1874, under the sponsorship of a wealthy merchant named Antonio Canesa. He had brought along with him a recently purchased guitar, made in Seville
Seville
Seville is the artistic, historic, cultural, and financial capital of southern Spain. It is the capital of the autonomous community of Andalusia and of the province of Seville. It is situated on the plain of the River Guadalquivir, with an average elevation of above sea level...

 by Antonio de Torres. Its superior sonic qualities inspired him both in his playing and in his view of the instrument's compositional potential. At the conservatory, Tárrega studied composition under Emilio Arrieta
Emilio Arrieta
Pascual Juan Emilio Arrieta Corera was a Spanish composer.Arrieta was born in Puente la Reina, Navarre, and died in Madrid...

 who convinced him to focus on guitar and abandon the idea of a career with the piano.

By the end of the 1870s, Tárrega was teaching the guitar (Emilio Pujol
Emilio Pujol
Emili Pujol Vilarrubí was a composer and the leading twentieth century musicologist and classical guitar teacher.- Biography :...

 and Miguel Llobet
Miguel Llobet
Miguel Llobet Solés was a classical guitarist, born in Barcelona . Llobet was a renowned virtuoso who toured Europe and America extensively. He made well known arrangements of Catalan folk songs for the solo guitar and is also the composer of original works.-Biography:Some details of Llobet's...

 as well as Daniel Fortea (1878–1953) were pupils of his) and giving regular concerts. Tárrega received much acclaim for his playing and began traveling to other areas of Spain to perform. By this time he was composing his first works for guitar, which he played in addition to works of other composers.

During the winter of 1880, Tárrega replaced his friend Luis de Soria, in a concert in Novelda
Novelda
Novelda is a town located in the province of Alicante, Spain. , it has a total population of 27,135 inhabitants.Novelda has important quarries and mines of marble, limestone, silica, clay and gypsum. It is a major centre of the marble industry....

, Alicante
Alicante
Alicante or Alacant is a city in Spain, the capital of the province of Alicante and of the comarca of Alacantí, in the south of the Valencian Community. It is also a historic Mediterranean port. The population of the city of Alicante proper was 334,418, estimated , ranking as the second-largest...

, where, after the concert, an important man in town asked the artist to listen to his daughter, María José Rizo, who was learning to play guitar. Soon they were engaged.

In 1881, Tárrega played in the Opera Theatre in Lyon
Lyon
Lyon , is a city in east-central France in the Rhône-Alpes region, situated between Paris and Marseille. Lyon is located at from Paris, from Marseille, from Geneva, from Turin, and from Barcelona. The residents of the city are called Lyonnais....

 and then the Paris
Paris
Paris is the capital and largest city in France, situated on the river Seine, in northern France, at the heart of the Île-de-France region...

 Odeon, in the bicentenary of the death of Pedro Calderón de la Barca
Pedro Calderón de la Barca
Pedro Calderón de la Barca y Barreda González de Henao Ruiz de Blasco y Riaño usually referred as Pedro Calderón de la Barca , was a dramatist, poet and writer of the Spanish Golden Age. During certain periods of his life he was also a soldier and a Roman Catholic priest...

. He also played in London
London
London is the capital city of :England and the :United Kingdom, the largest metropolitan area in the United Kingdom, and the largest urban zone in the European Union by most measures. Located on the River Thames, London has been a major settlement for two millennia, its history going back to its...

, but he liked neither the language nor the weather. There is a story about his visit to England. After a concert, some people saw that the musician was in low spirits. "What is the matter, maestro?" they asked him. "Do you miss home? Your family, perhaps?" They advised him to capture that moment of sadness in his music. Thus he conceived the theme of one of his most memorable works, Lágrima (literally meaning teardrop). After playing in London he came back to Novelda for his wedding. At Christmas 1882, Tárrega married María José Rizo.

To enlarge his guitar repertory, he soon began transcribing piano works of Beethoven
Ludwig van Beethoven
Ludwig van Beethoven was a German composer and pianist. A crucial figure in the transition between the Classical and Romantic eras in Western art music, he remains one of the most famous and influential composers of all time.Born in Bonn, then the capital of the Electorate of Cologne and part of...

, Chopin
Frédéric Chopin
Frédéric François Chopin was a Polish composer and virtuoso pianist. He is considered one of the great masters of Romantic music and has been called "the poet of the piano"....

, Mendelssohn
Felix Mendelssohn
Jakob Ludwig Felix Mendelssohn Barthóldy , use the form 'Mendelssohn' and not 'Mendelssohn Bartholdy'. The Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians gives ' Felix Mendelssohn' as the entry, with 'Mendelssohn' used in the body text...

 and others, and, no doubt, to make use of his considerable knowledge of keyboard music. Tárrega and his wife moved to Madrid
Madrid
Madrid is the capital and largest city of Spain. The population of the city is roughly 3.3 million and the entire population of the Madrid metropolitan area is calculated to be 6.271 million. It is the third largest city in the European Union, after London and Berlin, and its metropolitan...

, gaining their living by teaching privately and playing concerts, but after the death of an infant daughter during the winter, Maria Josefa de los Angeles Tárrega Rizo, they settled permanently in Barcelona in 1885. Among his friends in Barcelona were Isaac Albéniz
Isaac Albéniz
Isaac Manuel Francisco Albéniz y Pascual was a Spanish Catalan pianist and composer best known for his piano works based on folk music idioms .-Life:Born in Camprodon, province of Girona, to Ángel Albéniz and his wife Dolors Pascual, Albéniz...

, Enrique Granados
Enrique Granados
Enrique Granados y Campiña was a Spanish pianist and composer of classical music. His music is in a uniquely Spanish style and, as such, representative of musical nationalism...

, Joaquín Turina
Joaquín Turina
Joaquín Turina was a Spanish composer of classical music.-Biography:Turina was born in Seville but his origins were in northern Italy . He studied in Seville as well as in Madrid...

 and Pablo Casals
Pablo Casals
Pau Casals i Defilló , known during his professional career as Pablo Casals, was a Spanish Catalan cellist and conductor. He is generally regarded as the pre-eminent cellist of the first half of the 20th century, and one of the greatest cellists of all time...

.

Francisco Tárrega and María José (María Josefa) Rizo had three more children. Paquito (Francisco), Maria Rosatia (María Rosalia) (best known as Marieta) and Concepción. On a concert tour in Valencia shortly afterward, Tárrega met a wealthy widow, Conxa Martinez, who became a valuable patron to him. She allowed him and his family use of a house in Barcelona, where he would write the bulk of his most popular works. Later she took him to Granada
Granada
Granada is a city and the capital of the province of Granada, in the autonomous community of Andalusia, Spain. Granada is located at the foot of the Sierra Nevada mountains, at the confluence of three rivers, the Beiro, the Darro and the Genil. It sits at an elevation of 738 metres above sea...

, where the guitarist conceived the theme for his famous Recuerdos de la Alhambra
Recuerdos de la Alhambra
Recuerdos de la Alhambra is a classical guitar piece composed in 1896 by Spanish composer and guitarist Francisco Tárrega. He wrote it in Granada.A virtuoso on his instrument, Tárrega was known as the "Sarasate of the guitar"...

, which he composed on his return and dedicated to his friend Alfred Cottin, a Frenchman who had arranged his Paris
Paris
Paris is the capital and largest city in France, situated on the river Seine, in northern France, at the heart of the Île-de-France region...

 concerts.

From the latter 1880s up to 1903, Tárrega continued composing, but limited his concerts to Spain. In 1900 Tárrega visited Argel
Algiers
' is the capital and largest city of Algeria. According to the 1998 census, the population of the city proper was 1,519,570 and that of the urban agglomeration was 2,135,630. In 2009, the population was about 3,500,000...

, where he heard a repetitive rhythm played on an Arabian drum. The following morning he composed his famous Danza Mora based on that rhythm. In about 1902, he cut his fingernails and created a sound that would become typical of those guitarists associated with his school. The following year he went on tour to Italy
Italy
Italy , officially the Italian Republic languages]] under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages. In each of these, Italy's official name is as follows:;;;;;;;;), is a unitary parliamentary republic in South-Central Europe. To the north it borders France, Switzerland, Austria and...

, giving highly successful concerts in Rome
Rome
Rome is the capital of Italy and the country's largest and most populated city and comune, with over 2.7 million residents in . The city is located in the central-western portion of the Italian Peninsula, on the Tiber River within the Lazio region of Italy.Rome's history spans two and a half...

, Naples
Naples
Naples is a city in Southern Italy, situated on the country's west coast by the Gulf of Naples. Lying between two notable volcanic regions, Mount Vesuvius and the Phlegraean Fields, it is the capital of the region of Campania and of the province of Naples...

, and Milan
Milan
Milan is the second-largest city in Italy and the capital city of the region of Lombardy and of the province of Milan. The city proper has a population of about 1.3 million, while its urban area, roughly coinciding with its administrative province and the bordering Province of Monza and Brianza ,...

.

In January 1906, he was afflicted with paralysis on his right side, and though he would eventually return to the concert stage, he never completely recovered. He finished his last work, Oremus
Oremus (Tárrega)
Oremus is a short prelude in D minor by Spanish guitar composer Francisco Tárrega. It is often preceded by its brother piece Endecha and the two usually appear together as Endecha - Oremus. Oremus is also noted for being the last piece Tárrega composed before his death in 1909....

, on 2 December 1909. He died in Barcelona thirteen days later, on 15 December, at the age of 57.

Musical style


As a composer Tárrega was conservative, his style was similar to the general trends in the second half of the 19th century. A virtuoso on his instrument, he was known as the "Sarasate
Pablo de Sarasate
Pablo Martín Melitón de Sarasate y Navascués was a Navarrese Spanish violinist and composer of the Romantic period.-Career:Pablo Sarasate was born in Pamplona, Navarre, the son of an artillery bandmaster...

 of the guitar".

Tárrega is considered to have laid the foundations for 20th century classical guitar and for increasing interest in the guitar as a recital instrument. Tárrega preferred small intimate performances over the concert stage. Some believe this was because he played without the nails needed for volume. Others say this was related to his childhood trauma.

Tárrega played with his nails until the last 9 years of his life. He had been playing with shorter nails, and at that point was using only flesh. Andrés Segovia
Andrés Segovia
Andrés Torres Segovia, 1st Marquis of Salobreña , known as Andrés Segovia, was a virtuoso Spanish classical guitarist from Linares, Jaén, Andalucia, Spain...

, who established the use of both flesh and nail, when asked for his opinion on Tarrega's use of the right hand without nails, replied:
"It is absolutely stupid. You reduce the volume of the guitar, and the difference of timbre and colour.Tarrega has renounced the real nature of the guitar, which is the richness of its timbres, the different colours of the guitar."

Compositions




Francisco Tárrega's music and style of guitar playing became strongly influential in the twentieth century. He was central to reviving the guitar as a solo instrument in recital and concerts. His output was modest, having composed only 78 original scores and 120 transcriptions – mostly for his own use. Among his most popular works for the guitar are Recuerdos de la Alhambra
Recuerdos de la Alhambra
Recuerdos de la Alhambra is a classical guitar piece composed in 1896 by Spanish composer and guitarist Francisco Tárrega. He wrote it in Granada.A virtuoso on his instrument, Tárrega was known as the "Sarasate of the guitar"...

, Capricho árabe and Danza Mora.

He is also the composer of what has been claimed to be "probably the world's most heard tune": the Nokia
Nokia
Nokia Corporation is a Finnish multinational communications corporation that is headquartered in Keilaniemi, Espoo, a city neighbouring Finland's capital Helsinki...

 ringtone, Nokia tune
Nokia tune
The Nokia tune is a phrase from a composition for solo guitar, Gran Vals, by the Spanish classical guitarist and composer Francisco Tárrega, written in 1902....

, or simply Nokia, also used in advertising spots, is based on Tárrega's Gran Vals. His music also inspired Mike Oldfield
Mike Oldfield
Michael Gordon Oldfield is an English multi-instrumentalist musician and composer, working a style that blends progressive rock, folk, ethnic or world music, classical music, electronic music, New Age, and more recently, dance. His music is often elaborate and complex in nature...

 to arrange Tárrega's tremolo
Tremolo
Tremolo, or tremolando, is a musical term that describes various trembling effects, falling roughly into two types. The first is a rapid reiteration...

 study Recuerdos de la Alhambra for the soundtrack of the film The Killing Fields
The Killing Fields (film)
The Killing Fields is a 1984 British drama film about the Khmer Rouge regime in Cambodia, which is based on the experiences of two journalists: Cambodian Dith Pran and American Sydney Schanberg. The film, which won three Academy Awards, was directed by Roland Joffé and stars Sam Waterston as...

.

As with several of his Spanish contemporaries, such as his friend Isaac Albéniz
Isaac Albéniz
Isaac Manuel Francisco Albéniz y Pascual was a Spanish Catalan pianist and composer best known for his piano works based on folk music idioms .-Life:Born in Camprodon, province of Girona, to Ángel Albéniz and his wife Dolors Pascual, Albéniz...

, he had an interest in combining the prevailing Romantic trend in classical music with Spanish folk elements, and transcribed several of Albéniz's piano pieces. The noted contemporary guitarist and composer Angelo Gilardino
Angelo Gilardino
Angelo Gilardino is an Italian composer, guitarist and musicologist.During his concert career, from 1958 to 1981, he premiered hundreds of new works for the guitar. He taught at the Liceo Musicale G. B. Viotti in Vercelli from 1965 to 1981, and held a professorship at the Antonio Vivaldi...

 has written that Tárrega's 9 Preludios are "... the deepest musical thought of Tárrega in the most concentrated form."

Tárrega's guitars


The guitars used by Tárrega include:

  • Torres
    Antonio Torres Jurado
    Antonio de Torres Jurado was a Spanish guitarist and luthier, and "the most important Spanish guitar maker of the 19th century."...

    , FE 17 (1864) – This is the guitar that was given to Tárrega by Torres personally after hearing him play.
  • Torres, SE 49 (1883)
  • Torres, SE 114 (1888)'; in the collection of Sheldon Urlik

External links


  • Complete work and biography (with midi music files, that are not at all reflective of Tárrega's performance style, but instead of sheetmusic)

Articles and Presentations

Cronología de la vida de Tárrega (with photos) by Francisco Herrera El frustrado monumento a Tárrega en Madrid by Ignacio Ramos Altamira (June 2007)

Photos