The Kennedy Center

Recuerdos de la Alhambra

About the Work

Francisco Tárrega Composer: Francisco Tárrega
© Dr. Richard E. Rodda

Francisco Tárrega was a seminal figure in the history of the guitar, the virtuoso and composer who helped to launch the instrument's rebirth in the 20th century. Tárrega, widely equated during his lifetime with Spain's greatest violinist as "the Sarasate of the guitar," was born in Villarreal, Castellón on November 21, 1852. He began his musical studies on the piano, the day's most fashionable instrument, and took up the guitar at age ten as a student of Julian Arcas. Tárrega studied theory and performance at the Madrid Conservatory from 1874 to 1877, and supported himself after leaving the school as a concert guitarist and teacher. His performances in Paris and London in 1880 not only established his prominence as an artist of international stature but also helped to legitimize the guitar as a concert instrument. Tárrega continued to tour widely until suffering a stroke in 1906 that paralyzed his right arm. His influence as a performer, teacher, composer and arranger was universally acknowledged by the time of his death, on December 15, 1909, in Barcelona. Among the most famous of Tárrega's solo pieces is the haunting "tremolo study" Recuerdos de la Alhambra ("Remembrances of the Alhambra").