The history of the modern classic guitar is closely associated with Francisco Tarrega, master guitarist and teacher.
He was born November 21,1852, at Villareal, Castellon , Spain , and died December 5, 1909, in Barcelona . It has been said that he was a man with a genial personality, an extraordinary intelligence, and that his genius was equaled only by his modesty.
During his lifetime, Tarrega suffered from an incurable and painful chronic eye disease called ophthalmia. This was caused from being pushed into a polluted steam when he was a child by a vicious nursemaid. Tarrega nearly drowned during the incident, which seriously impaired his eyesight and in later years caused him to be reluctant to give public concerts. He was much more content to play for a select group of friends and pupils.
When Tarrega was but 11 years old, he performed a guitar concerto by Julian Arcas. This would indicate, of course, that he was a child prodigy. His early musical training was received from local musicians, including a blind guitarist and a blind pianist. In 1874, at the age of 22, he entered the Madrid Conservatoire of Music as a student of piano and harmony. The following year he was a warded the first prize for harmony and composition.
Upon the completion of his studies at the Madrid Conservatoire of Music, Tarrega commenced his career as teacher of classical guitar.
From then on his life was devoted to his art, both as teacher and composer. His original compositions and transcriptions of the classic masters reveal his marvelous insight into the resources of the guitar and its technical possibilities. In the ensuing years, he taught many pupils who acquired fame.
Tarrega wrote many studies and preludes for the guitar. Some were, of course, designed as teaching material and emphasize certain technical aspects as they relate to the guitar. Most of these compositions are characterized by ingenious fingering, particularly of the left hand.
Some of Tarrega's greatest contributions to the modern guitar repertoire are his masterly transcriptions of music by Classic and Romantic composers. The list is long and includes such greats as Bach, Beethoven, Schumann, Chopin, and Albéniz.
Tarrega transcribed several of the Chopin preludes for guitar, and the following is one of the most beautiful.
Spain is justly proud of its native son, Francisco Terraga. In 1916 a monument was erected in his memory in the public park of Villareal . On a house in the Plaza Pascual is a plaque with the following inscription: "In this house was born on November 21, 1852 to the honor and glory of Villareal, the eminent guitarist Francisco Tarrega".
In Villareal, Castellon, and Barcelona , streets have been named after him as a daily reminder and lasting tribute to this great man. Top
Emilio Pujol , one of Tarrega's outstanding pupils, described a day in the life of the master as something like this:
"Each morning, after dressing, he would light up a cigarillo, after which he would seat himself in a corner of the dining room, tune his guitar, and begin the day's practice with some exercises and improvisations. Breakfast would interrupt the practicing, but soon it would be resumed with an hour on chromatic scales, diatonic scales in thirds end sixths, followed by an hour of arpeggios, then an hour on runs and trills, followed by an hour or two on difficult passages. The time after lunch was reserved for writing music. Toward evening, friends and aficionados would come to hear him play. Then at night, when everyone else in the house was asleep, he would play for himself".
It was Terraga who perfected the playing position of the right hand. Previously, guitarists had persisted in resting the littler finger on the soundboard for support, employing mostly the thumb, index, and middle finger for sounding the strings. Tarrega did not rest the little finger on the soundboard, but held the hand perpendicular to the strings, which automatically brought the ring finger over the strings, making many more fingering combinations possible. Top
One of the most renowned guitars and composers for the guitar during the latter part of the 18 th century and the beginning of the 19 th was Fernando Sor.
Sor was not only a guitar virtuoso of first rank, but also a thoroughly schooled musician in harmony, counterpoint, and composition, as well. So impressive were his talents that Fétis, the leading music critic of the time, always referred to Sor as "the Beethoven of the guitar."
Sor's first music lessons were on the violin, followed by further study on the cello. His progress was rapid, and before long he was placed in one of the monasteries in Barcelona , his native city. There he received a good general education, which included instruction in harmony and composition. During this time, he became intensely interested in the guitar and worked diligently to improve and perfect his playing.
When Sor was 16 years old, he left the monastery in Barcelona . It is said that he was an excellent student and that his teachers were proud of him.
After leaving the monastery, Sor joined an itinerant Italian Opera Company. This afforded him an opportunity to put his musical knowledge to practical use. But when 17 he wrote an opera that was performed successfully in Barcelona . Other performances were given in Venice and London .
In 1800 Sor, at the age of 22, joined the Spanish army because of war with Portugal and served for sometime as a captain. Later he was compelled to take refuge in France with the adherents of King Joseph Bonaparte.
In Paris , Sor soon became acquainted with some of the leading musicians of the French capital, who in return prevailed upon him to devote himself to his art again.
In 1809 Sor took up residence in London . Because of wars affecting his own country, Portugal , and France , he was actually a Spanish refugee.
England welcomed Sor with great enthusiasm. The guitar was new to that country and Sor's extraordinary skill on the instrument created a furor in London . At last the master could settle down and devote his life on his art.
Sor considered the study of thirds and sixths indispensable to the mastery of the guitar. In his method he says: "it is my assertion that the complete mastery of the guitar, as an instrument of harmony, consist of a thorough knowledge of thirds and sixths."
Sor was pleased with his reception, at the age of 31, we find him giving concerts, writing music, and establishing himself as a fashionable teacher. England would be his home for about the next 25 years. There he spent the most successful and profitable part of his career. It should be mentioned that Sor was the only guitar soloist ever to be invited to play at the royal philharmonic concert in London - a high tribute indeed. Top
ESTUDIO IN B MINOR.
Of Sor's concert studies for the guitar, is one of particular beauty. Though it requires frequent grade barres, it is less difficult than most of the other studios he wrote for the more advanced performer. The tempo should not be too strict. The metronome marking suggests only a general speed. A little rubato here and there is permissible.
Is one of the most famous of the old masters of the guitar.
He also has the distinction of being born the same year as Beethoven --- 1770.
Carulli must have been a remarkable guitar virtuoso. It was said that the command he possessed over his instrument was so extraordinary that never for an instant was he hesitant in the execution of the most difficult passages, regardless of their nature.
In 1810 Carulli wrote his Method for Guitar, which he dedicated to his 9-year-old son, "Gustave".
The book was an immediate success and was reprinted many times. As the son grew older, he became a fine musician in his own right as a highly gifted singing-master and composer.
Carulli was a versatile musician. Besides the instructional material we associate whit his name, he wrote a book entitled Harmony Applied to the Guitar and another called Vocal
Exercises or solféges with Guitar Accompaniment .
He also wrote a number of sonatas for solo guitar; each consisting of a slow movement usually followed by a rondo.
Like most great guitarist, Carulli was on friendly terms with some of the finest guitar markers of the day. One was Locate of Paris . He constructed several of the guitars that were designed by Carulli himself.
Carulli bequeathed his guitar to the National Conservatoire of Music in Paris .
It is a beautiful instrument made of figured rosewood and inlaid around the edges with ivory and ebony. Top
His name is one most familiar to students of the classical guitar because of his method and excellent studies for the instrument.
Italy has always been pre-eminent for its virtuosity and composers for the guitar. In addition to Carcassi, others who come to mind include Carulli, Giuliani, Legnani, Boccherini, and Paganini, the famous violin virtuoso. Top
He was not a voluminous composer, but his published works proclaim his greatness. These are, for the most part, didactic in nature and very useful to the student who is far advanced.
Around the year 1835, while Aguado was in Paris , he met Fernando Sor, a guitarist equally as famous as himself. The two become great friends, often playing guitar duets together. Top
The famous Italian guitar virtuoso came to London to give a series of concerts. Giuliani was Sor's only rival. However, the playing styles of the two men were quite different, so each master had his followers.
As a result, two separate fan clubs came in to begin, one named for Sor, the other for Giuliani. Top
One of the greatest musicians of the twentieth century was born in Linares , Spain , on February 21, 1893. At the age of five he was taken to live with his uncle in Granada . His uncle encouraged him to learn the violin, but little Andrés was captivated by the sound of a guitar played by a local "flamenco" performer in his uncle's house. In the absence of formal training Segovia became, as he put it, "both teacher and pupil," a combination that produced the most celebrated guitarist of the twentieth century.
Segovia 's sound was unique, and he literally captured the World with his sensitive and romantic concerts.
He was concern with the limitations of the guitar concert repertoire and launched a campaign to persuade prominent composer to write for the guitar, including Brazilian Villa-Lobos, Castelnuovo-Tedesco, Joaquín Rodrigo, and many others. His master classes in Siena , Italy , and in Santiago de Compostela , Spain , were a magnet to serious students, many of who are leading players today like the renowned English virtuoso John Williams. It is because of Segovia that the classical guitar is well accepted today in music academies and universities. He gave the guitar stature, and the level of his personal musicianship forced critics to recognize in him a performer comparable to Fritz Kreisler or Pablo Casals. Segovia 's genial nature brought him into contact with many famous people of his day, and as he said shortly before his death in 1987, "I have lived a long life, but a broad one." Top