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Tarrega - Recuerdos de Alhambra (Memories of the Alhambra)

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Tarrega - Recuerdos de Alhambra (Memories of the Alhambra)

The tremolo study 'Recuerdos de la Alhambra' composed in 1896 is, without doubt, the most famous piece by the Spanish composer and guitarist Francisco Tárrega, bringing back memories of the fortified Moorish palace situated on a hill in the Spanish city of Granada.

Francisco Tárrega was inspired by visit to the Alhambra two years previews in composing this piece.

Tarrega - Recuerdos de Alhambra (Memories of the Alhambra)

The Alhambra Palace was one of the greatest architectural wonders of the world when it was created in the 13th and 14th centuries and remains so today. It is unlikely that any future civilisation will ever be able to match the magnificence and mysticism of the Alhambra Palace - truly an extraordinary fairytale palace.

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Alhambra

 

Francisco Tárrega was born on November 21, 1852, in Villareal, Castellon, Spain. An accident in his early childhood permanently impaired his eyesight. He was taught his first lessons on guitar by Eugeni Ruiz, ironically a blind musician. In 1862, concert guitarist Julian Arcas, on tour in Castellon, heard young Francisco play and advised Tárrega's father to allow Francisco to come to Barcelona for study with him. Tárrega's father agreed, but insisted that he take piano lessons as well.

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Julian Arcas

 

By his early teens, Tárrega had become proficient on both instruments. In 1874 he enrolled at the Madrid Conservatory where he would study composition under Arrieta. He had brought along with him a recently-purchased guitar, made in Seville by Antonio Torres. Its superior sonic qualities inspired him both in his playing and in his view of the instrument's compositional potential. When Arrieta heard his student Tárrega in a guitar concert, he convinced him to focus on guitar and abandon ideas of a career involving the piano.

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Francisco Tarrega

 

During winter 1880, Tarrega substituted his friend and guitar player Luis de Soria in a concert in Novelda (Alicante), city where he meets his future wife Maria Rizo. In 1881 he goes to France. After a wonderful concert in Lyon, he arrives to Paris and meets the most important VIPs. He plays in several Theaters, being even invited to play for the Queen of Spain Isabel II, and later he continues his tour to London. He returns from there to Novelda to get married with Maria Rizo.

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Emilio Arrieta

 

The new family moves to Madrid, then they move to Barcelona, travelling from there to many places for playing. This is Tarrega's mature period. He starts frequent tours. Perpignan (France), Cadiz (Spain), Nice (France), Mallorca (Spain), Paris, Valencia, ....

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Francisco Tarrega

 

In Valencia he meets a lady that influenced him: Conxa Martinez, rich widow that takes him under artistic protection. She allowed him and his family use of a house in Barcelona, where he would write the bulk of his most popular works. Later she took him to Granada, where the guitarist conceived the theme for his famous Recuerdos de la Alhambra, which he composed on his return and dedicated to his friend Alfred Cottin, a Frenchman who had arranged his Paris concerts.

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Alhambra - Court of the lions

 

From the latter 1880s up to 1903, Tárrega continued composing, but limited his concerts to Spain. In 1900 Tárrega visited Argel, where he heard a repetitive rhythm played on an Arabian drum. The following morning he composed his famous Danza Mora based on that rhythm.

In January 1906, he was afflicted with paralysis on his right side, and though he would eventually return to the concert stage, he never completely recovered. He finished his last work, Oremus, on December 2, 1909. He died 13 days later.

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Alhambra - Interior

 

Recuerdos de la Alhambra shares a title with the Spanish language translation of Washington Irving's 1832 book, Tales of the Alhambra, written during the author's four-year stay in Spain.

 

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Alhambra - Court of the lions

 

The piece showcases the challenging guitar technique known as tremolo, wherein a single melody note is plucked repeatedly by the ring, middle and index fingers in such rapid succession that the result is an illusion of one long sustained tone. The thumb plays a counter-melody on the bass between melodic attacks. Many who hear this piece initially in a non-live setting can mistake it for a duet rather than a challenging solo effort.

Nana Mouskouri and Sarah Brightman have performed a vocal version of this piece.

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Francisco Tarrega

 

Recuerdos de la Alhambra is a fairly light work, but one of great beauty, the quivering flow of its dark lyricism imparting a hushed nocturnal charm throughout the piece. The slowly paced main theme rises and falls many times along its lengthy path, at times bordering on sadness or on loss, yet balancing its gloom with an emotional sweetness that makes the ear focus on the music's beauty and turn away from its sense of distress. While the composer may well be depicting some historical feeling associated with the castle or merely its enchanting atmosphere, the tender, tremulous music could just as well be about a failed romance or the loss of a friend. In any event, this charming work will appeal to most lovers of guitar music.

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Francisco Tarrega plays for friends

 

Alhambra - Sarah Brightman, lyrics


Your memories of ebony and perfume are sleeping in your rooms, 
full of tenderness, my beloved Alhambra.

You saw a thousand loves be born within you, 
lights which caress from your windows, despaired Alhambra.

Your dreams shine in a sea of stars 
and the moon sings your silence, Alhambra.

Tears of ivy weep for the vanquished, 
between sword and rose your olives grow, my beloved Alhambra.

Saved in my memory you savour of moon, 
shining over the village like the sun, Alhambra.

I dream of Alhambra, my beloved Alhambra.

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Alhambra

 

Spanish lyrics

Duermen tus recuerdos de bano y perfume en tus aposentos, llenos de ternura, mi querida Alhambra. Viste mil amores nacer en tus entraas, luces que acarician desde tus ventanas, despechada Alhambra. Brillan tus ensueos en un mar de estrellas y la luna canta tu silencio, Alhambra. Lgrimas de yedra lloran los vencidos, Entre espada y rosa crecen tus olivos, mi querida Alhambra. Guardo en mi recuerdo tu sabor la luna, brillas sobre el pueblo como el sol, Alhambra. Sueo con Alhambra, mi querida Alhambra.

Last Updated (Thursday, 19 March 2015 15:21)

 

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