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Francisco Tárrega

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Francisco Tárrega

Biography

Francisco de Asís Tárrega y Eixea (21 November 1852, Villareal, Spain – 15 December 1909, Barcelona, Spain) was a Spanish composer and classical guitarist of the Romantic period.

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

As a child, he ran away from his nanny and fell into an irrigation channel and injured his eyes. Fearing that his son might lose his sight completely, his father moved the family to Castellón de la Plana to attend music classes because as a musician he would be able to earn a living, even if blind. Both his first music teachers, Eugeni Ruiz and Manuel González, were blind.

In 1862, concert guitarist Julián Arcas, 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 lessons as well. The guitar was viewed as an instrument to accompany singers, while the piano was quite popular 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. He was soon found and brought back to his father, who had to make great sacrifices to advance his son's musical education.

Tárrega entered the Madrid 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 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 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, Miguel Llobet, and Daniel Fortea 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.

To enlarge his guitar repertory and, no doubt, to make use of his considerable knowledge of keyboard music, he soon began transcribing piano works of Beethoven, Chopin, Mendelssohn and others. Tárrega and his wife moved to Madrid, gaining their living by teaching privately and playing concerts, but after the death of an infant daughter during the winter, they settled permanently in Barcelona in 1885. Among his friends in Barcelona were Isaac Albeniz, Enrique Granados, Joaquín Turina and Pablo Casals.

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 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.


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