If you’re looking to discover some new guitar music that you can possibly feel passionate and excited about—and your old, scratched copy of the Allman Brothers At Fillmore East is feeling like an all too familiar bedtime story—I suggest you treat yourself to the music of one of the founding fathers of classical guitar: Francisco Tarrega.
Tarrega was born in 1852, and was proficient on both the piano and the guitar by his early teens. Tarrega’s humble beginnings included running away from home at ten years old, living with gypsies, and being taught the guitar by a blind guitarist in his village. With a life as fascinating and compelling as his music, Tarrega’s compositions express joy and sadness—sometimes with a yin/yang compositional approach—and his music is as beautiful and accessible today as it was more than a century ago.
This gem of an LP has guitarist Renata Terragó interpreting Tarrega’s wonderful compositions with masterful technique, insight, and sensitivity. Terragó was born in Barcelona, Spain, in 1927, and she was a child prodigy who gave her first major recital at 14 years old. Young Renata obviously followed her father’s advice that “guitar is a wonderful instrument that you must either play well, or not at all.”
As my own classical technique is one of a mere mortal whose comfort zone lies on the fretboard of a Telecaster, it was encouraging and gratifying to hear Terragó’s selfless simplicity. Using a right-hand technique that employs fingertips instead of fingernails, Terragó superbly showcases the melodies—sometimes rich and warm, and other times sharp and bright. She has a stunning vibrato—listen to her perform “Recuerdos de la Alhambra”—and, very interestingly, tunes her guitar a half-step higher than standard, which gives the pieces a harp-like quality. (I tried this myself, but the guitar felt a bit too “tight” for me.) I might be digressing here, but while I’m on the subject, I suggest watching Charo’s version of “Recuerdos de la Alhambra” on YouTube for a jaw-dropping treat. Charo is no slouch!
If you can’t find Terragó’s rare LP, you should seek out maestros Andres Segovia and Julian Bream performing Tarrega’s works. Or discover—as I did—an inspiring yet lesserknown artist playing his compositions, and experience the rewarding joys of doing a little musical detective work.