Fráncisco Tárrega (y Eixea)

Spanish Born 21 Nov 1852 Died 15 Dec 1909

Francisco Tarrega-Eixa was born in Villareal on 21st November 1852, and while young fell into a ditch, damaging his eyes.  Worrying that he may go completely blind, his parent moved to Castellon where little Francisco could have music lessons and therefore have a means of earning a living.  In 1862 Tarrega's guitar-playing was heard by Julian Arcas (a famous player), on whose advice Tarrega was sent to Barcelona for further study.  But he skipped school to earn money playing in cafes and pubs, and when his father found out, he brought his son home.  Taking a job playing the piano in a local casino, he was noticed by a businessman, who was so impressed that he sponsored Tarrega to study at the Spanish Conservatory.  There he devoted himself to playing the Guitar, an instrument at that time thought unworthy of concert performances.

Tarrega's fame began to grow with his performances in the early 1880s, and he travelled around Spain, and to France and England, meeting VIPs, wealthy patrons and even playing for the Queen of Spain.  After a trip to Grenada he wrote his most famous piece Recuerdos de la Alhambra (Alhambra's Memories, 1899), and a trip to Algeria inspired Danza Mora (Moorish Dance).  In Seville he wrote the Capricho Arabe which he dedicated to his friend, the composer Breton.

Unsatisfied with the sound of his playing, the fifty year old Tarrega cut his nails down until they had almost disappeared and the skin hardened, allowing him to play with his distinctive sweet tone.  His generosity to a large circle of friends meant that when he fell ill in 1906, the little funds he had were quickly depleted.  But those friends stepped in to help, funding a series of concerts (the Audicions Tarrega).  After another tour and the composition of Oremus (1908), Tarrega died at his home in Barcelona on December 15th 1909.  His works have enjoyed popularity with modern musicians - most notably Mike Oldfield's version of Recuerdos de la Alhambra (which he retitled as 'Etude') appeared on the Oscar-winning soundtrack of The Killing Fields.

Related composers: Chopin, Albeniz

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