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Recuerdos de la Alhambra

November 2, 2014 – Sharon Isbin, guitar

At the age of ten Tárrega studied classical guitar with Julian Arcas, followed by training at the Madrid Conservatory, where he also studied theory, harmony, and piano. He soon began to teach and at the same time to establish himself as a guitar virtuoso. His international reputation grew after successful appearances in Paris and London in 1880; he was acclaimed as “the Sarasate of the guitar.”

Tárrega did much to promote the guitar at a time when the piano had almost completely overshadowed the instrument. He not only composed some eighty original works for the guitar—Recuerdos de la Alhambra, Capricho árabe, and Danza mora are among his best-known solo pieces—but he transcribed over 140 works by other composers for either solo guitar or two guitars. These include pieces by Bach, Haydn, Mozart, Beethoven, Mendelssohn, Granados, and Albéniz, who once stated that Tárrega’s transcriptions were better than his own piano originals(!).

Recuerdos de la Alhambra, a study in tremolo (quick and continuous reiteration of a single pitch), represents Tárrega’s memories of the Alhambra, the citadel and palace at Granada, built by Moorish kings in the thirteenth century. The Alhambra (“the red castle”) stands on a plateau surrounded by a reddish brick wall and is considered one of the finest examples of Moorish architecture in Spain.

© Jane Vial Jaffe

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