Francisco Tàrrega was a Spanish composer and classical guitarist often referred to as the ‘the father of classical guitar’.
Two of Tàrrega’s most famous compositions are Danza mora and Recuerdos de la Alhambra.
Family & Early Life
His father was a watchman at the Convent of San Pascual, but also played the guitar including the flamenco. Francisco was said to sneakily borrow his father’s guitar whilst he was away and try to recreate his father’s playing.
Following an accident that injured his eyes Tàrrega’s father moved the family to Castellón de la Plana with the knowledge that even as a blind musician his son could earn a living. His first music teachers were both blind.
In 1862 whilst on tour, guitarist Julian Arcas heard ten-year-old Francisco Tàrrega play and asked his father if his son could return to Barcelona and study with him. His father only agreed on the terms that his son also learnt the piano. Unfortunately due to Arca’s tour schedule their time together was very brief and Tàrrega ran away trying to earn a living playing in coffee houses. However, he was caught and returned to his father. He ran away to Valencia twice after this playing with the gypsies. It wasn’t until the 1880s, in Alicante that Tárrega was finally able to formally study with Arcas.
In 1874 he joined the Madrid Conservatory with the backing of a wealthy sponsor. He studied composition deciding to concentrate solely on the guitar. By around 1876 he was teaching and performing regular concerts and went on to tour Spain and compose his own material. To further expand his repertoire he began transcribing – most of which was piano works.
He was fortunate to meet Conxa Martinez a wealthy widow who became a patron allowing him and his wife the use of her house in Barcelona. On a trip to Granada with her, Tàrrega was inspired to write Recuerdos de la Alhambra.
Between the late 1880s and early 1900s, Tàrrega limited his tours to Spain. However, on a visit to Algiers in 1900 he heard the repetitive sound of an Algerian drum which inspired him to write Danza mora the following morning.
Marriage, Family & Later
In 1882 Tàrrega married María José Rizo, sadly their first baby didn’t live very long and they made the decision to settle permanently in Barcelona. They went on to have three more children.
At the age of fifty-three Tàrrega encountered paralysis on his right side, it didn’t stop him from performing, however, he never fully recovered. He died in Barcelona at the age of fifty-seven.