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Francisco Trrega

1852 - 1909

Historically Francisco Trrega is of immense significance
in the development of the guitar over the last two
centuries, in terms of both technical innovations and
compositions. His advocacy of the new concepts of guitar
construction embodied in the work of Antonio de Torres
(18171892), the great Spanish luthier, has proved
influential right up to the present day. The composers use
of higher positions up the neck of the guitar and sonorous
effects achieved by precisely indicated fingerings, created
a new concept of the instrument. Working with the Torres
type of instrument (with its enhanced tonal qualities, fan
strutting, and a 650 millimetre string length), Trrega
established teaching methods including the most practical way of holding the guitar (using a
footstool to raise the left leg), principles of left and right hand techniques, and studies to
develop a players skills.

Furthermore, Trrega composed some superb music for the instrument, meticulously
indicating the precise placing of notes on the fingerboard to produce the most expressive
effects. In these little masterpieces, often influenced by Chopin, he established a Spanish
romantic voice for the guitar which has enchanted public and players ever since. Though he
did not write a guitar tutor, his methods were propagated through his many students. Among
these, Emilio Pujol (18861980) and Pascual Roch (18601921) wrote down his principles of
pedagogy in volumes still in use today.

Francisco Trrega was the most influential Spanish virtuoso performer of the nineteenth
century. His output was modest, with just 78 original scores and 120 transcriptionsmostly for
his own useof the great classical compositions. Trrega was also the first great arranger for
guitar, transcribing works from composers such as J.S. Bach, Beethoven, Berlioz, Chopin,
Grieg, Hndel, Haydn, Mozart, Schubert, Schumann, and Wagner, as well as pieces from
Albniz and Malats and other Spanish contemporaries.

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Trrega was born on 21 November 1852, in Villarreal, Province of Castelln, Spain. It is said that
Francisco's father played flamenco and several other music styles on his guitar; when his father was
away working as a watchman at the Convent of San Pascual, Francisco would take his father's guitar and
attempt to make the beautiful sounds he had heard. Francisco's nickname as a child was "Quiquet".

As a child, he ran away from his nanny and fell into an irrigation channel and injured his eyes. Fearing
that his son might lose his sight completely, his father moved the family to Castelln de la Plana to
attend music classes because as a musician he would be able to earn a living, even if blind. Both his first
music teachers, Eugeni Ruiz and Manuel Gonzlez, were blind.

In 1862, concert guitarist Julin Arcas, on tour in Castelln, heard the young Trrega play and advised
Trrega's father to allow Francisco to come to Barcelona to study with him. Trrega's father agreed, but
insisted that his son take piano lessons as well. The guitar was viewed as an instrument to accompany
singers, while the piano was quite popular throughout Europe. However, Trrega had to stop his lessons
shortly after, when Arcas left for a concert tour abroad. Although Trrega was only ten years old, he ran
away and tried to start a musical career on his own by playing in coffeehouses and restaurants in
Barcelona. He was soon found and brought back to his father, who had to make great sacrifices to
advance his son's musical education.

Three years later, in 1865, he ran away again, this time to Valencia where he joined a gang of gypsies. His
father looked for him and brought him back home once more, but he ran away a third time, again to
Valencia. By his early teens, Trrega was proficient on both the piano and the guitar. For a time, he
played with other musicians at local engagements to earn money, but eventually he returned home to
help his family.

Monument of Francisco Trrega in Villarreal

Trrega entered the Madrid conservatory in 1874, under

the sponsorship of a wealthy merchant named Antonio
Canesa. He had brought along with him a recently
purchased guitar, made in Seville by Antonio de Torres.
Its superior sonic qualities inspired him both in his
playing and in his view of the instrument's compositional
potential. At the conservatory, Trrega studied
composition under Emilio Arrieta who convinced him to
focus on guitar and abandon the idea of a career with the

By the end of the 1870s, Trrega was teaching the guitar

(Emilio Pujol, Miguel Llobet, and Daniel Fortea were
pupils of his) and giving regular concerts. Trrega
received much acclaim for his playing and began
traveling to other areas of Spain to perform. By this time
he was composing his first works for guitar, which he
played in addition to works of other composers.

During the winter of 1880, Trrega replaced his friend Luis de Soria, in a concert in Novelda, Alicante,
where, after the concert, an important man in town asked the artist to listen to his daughter, Mara Jos
Rizo, who was learning to play guitar. Soon they were engaged.

"Danza Mora", sheet music

In 1881, Trrega played in the Opera Theatre in Lyon and then the
Paris Odeon, in the bicentenary of the death of Pedro Caldern de
la Barca. He also played in London, but he liked neither the
language nor the weather. There is a story about his visit to
England. After a concert, some people saw that the musician was
in low spirits. "What is the matter, maestro?" they asked him. "Do
you miss home? Your family, perhaps?" They advised him to
capture that moment of sadness in his music. Thus he conceived
the theme of one of his most memorable works, Lgrima (literally
meaning teardrop). After playing in London he came back to
Novelda for his wedding. At Christmas 1882, Trrega married
Mara Jos Rizo.

To enlarge his guitar repertory and, no doubt, to make use of his

considerable knowledge of keyboard music, he soon began
transcribing piano works of Beethoven, Chopin, Mendelssohn and
others. Trrega and his wife moved to Madrid, gaining their living
by teaching privately and playing concerts, but after the death of an infant daughter during the winter,
Maria Josefa de los Angeles Trrega Rizo, they settled permanently in Barcelona in 1885. Among his
friends in Barcelona were Isaac Albniz, Enrique Granados, Joaqun Turina and Pablo Casals.

Portrait by Vicente Castell (1904)

Francisco Trrega and Mara Jos (Mara Josefa) Rizo had three
more children: Paquito (Francisco), Maria Rosatia (Mara
Rosalia) (best known as Marieta) and Concepcin. On a concert
tour in Valencia shortly afterward, Trrega met a wealthy
widow, Conxa Martinez, who became a valuable patron to him.
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 "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.

From the later 1880s up to 1903, Trrega continued composing,

but limited his concerts to Spain. In 1900, Trrega visited
Algiers, where he heard a repetitive rhythm played on an
Arabian drum. The following morning he composed "Danza
Mora" based on that rhythm. In about 1902, he cut his
fingernails and created a sound that would become typical of
those guitarists associated with his school. The following year he went on tour to Italy, giving highly
successful concerts in Rome, Naples, and Milan.
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 2 December
1909. He died in Barcelona thirteen days later, on 15 December, at the age of 57.

Musical style
As a composer Trrega was conservative, his style was similar to the general trends in the second half of
the 19th century. A virtuoso on his instrument, he was known as the "Sarasate of the guitar".

Trrega is considered to have laid the foundations for 20th century classical guitar and for increasing
interest in the guitar as a recital instrument. Trrega preferred small intimate performances over the
concert stage.


Francisco Trrega composed 78 original scores and 120
transcriptions mostly for his own use.

As with several of his Spanish contemporaries, such as his

friend Isaac Albniz, he had an interest in combining the
prevailing Romantic trend in classical music with Spanish folk
elements, and transcribed several of Albniz's piano pieces. The
contemporary guitarist and composer Angelo Gilardino has
written that Trrega's 9 Preludios are "... the deepest musical
thought of Trrega in the most concentrated form."

He is also the composer of Gran Vals, an excerpt of which was

used in the iconic Nokia ringtone.

The guitars used by Trrega include:

Torres, FE 17 (1864) This is the guitar that was given to Trrega by Torres personally after
hearing him play.
Torres, SE 49 (1883)
Torres, SE 114 (1888); in the collection of Sheldon Urlik[1] [2]

Francisco Trrega Biografa Oficial by Adrin Rius Espins, published by Ayuntamiento de
Vila-Real, ISBN 84-88331-82-7
Francisco Trrega Seleccin de Obras by Adrin Rius Espins (includes CD with historical
recordings by Josefina Robledo; example: "Capricho rabe", published by Excmo.
Ayuntamiento de Vila-Real and Instituto Valenciano de la Msica
Francisco Trrega, Werden und Wirkung by Wolf Moser, published by Edition
Saint-Georges. ISBN 3-00-012750-X.
Francisco Trrega, Complete Guitar Works by Michel Beauchamp, edited by Productions
d'Oz. ISBN 978-2-89655-079-1
Francisco Trrega y la guitarra en Espana entre 1830 y 1960 by Wolf Moser, published by
Piles Editorial de Msica S.A. ISBN 978-84-96814-34-9
Francisco Trrega, Collected Guitar Works, reprints of early editions, by Rafael Andia,
Chanterelle 1001 and 1002. ISBN 3-89044-125-4

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Francisco Trrega
Listening Log

On the YPAS Guitar YouTube page, locate the Trrega Listening Exam playlist. Notate the
composer, composition, performer, and any other pertinent information. When considering what
additional information to include, ask yourself some of the following questions:

- Do I know the translation of the title?

- Can I find when it was written? Approximately?
- What biographical information might inform the composition?
- What was going on culturally in the country? Abroad?
- What was going on personally for the composer?
- Are there any themes across other disciplines? Art, literature, etc.?
- What is the form of the piece? Key? Meter?
- What are some musical characteristics of the composition? Techniques?
- How is the performer being authentic to or reimaging the composition?

On your Listening Exam you will have to label the composer, composition, and provide one musical reason as
a rationale.

Composer: Composition: Performer: Notes:

Francisco Recuerdos de David Russell -Islamic Palace in Granada.

Trrega la Alhambra

Francisco Capricho Marcin Dylla -19th Century Exoticism

Trrega rabe -Arabian Nights

Francisco Prelude in D Fernando Esp -Let us pray in Latin.
Trrega Minor

Francisco Lgrima Rafael Elizondo -Spanish for Teardrop.

Trrega -Written i n London while away from family.

Francisco Adelita Rafael Elizondo -A mazurka, which is a Polish dance in

Trrega with an accent on beat 2.
-A favorite compositional medium of

Nicol Caprice no. Alexander -Variation form that showcases a variety of

Paganini 24 Markov violin techniques.

Francisco Danza Mora David Russell -Written in a Phrygian mode

Trrega -Contains a bass ostinato imitating an
Arabic drum.

Francisco Grande Vals George -The waltz was a famous and, at times,
Trrega Sakellariou controversial social dance.
- Composers like Chopin and Strauss
elevated the medium.

Frdric Nocturne, Dmitry -A Romantic Era preoccupation with the

Chopin Op. 9, No. 2 Shishkin theme of the night.

Francisco Nocturne, Fernando Esp -Moved to a more guitar friendly key of E

Trrega Op. 9, No. 2 major.
-Expansive cadenza.

Francisco Variaciones Rafael Aguirre -Variation form that showcases a variety of

Trrega sobre "El guitar techniques.
Carnaval de -Lyricism meets virtuosity.

Nicol Il carnevale Salvatore -A popular theme and variation form that

Paganini di Venezia, Accardo showcases a variety of violin techniques.

Francisco Trrega
Listening Exam

Word Bank

Recuerdos de la Alhambra Adelita Capricho rabe

Expansive Cadenza Portamento Lgrima

High Position Slurs Variaciones sobre El Tremolo

Carnaval de Venecia

Danza Mora Parallel Major Bass Ostinato

Chopin Nocturne, Op. 9, No. 2 Parallel Minor

Grands Vals Trrega Triple Meter

Label the composer, composition, and provide one musical reason as a rationale. You will hear each example


Composer Composition Rationale


Composer Composition Rationale


Composer Composition Rationale


Composer Composition Rationale


Composer Composition Rationale


Composer Composition Rationale


Composer Composition Rationale


Composer Composition Rationale

Francisco Trrega
Repertoire Progression

-Etude in D Major
-Etude in E Minor
-Prelude in D Major
-Prelude in D Minor Endecha
-Prelude in E Major
- Maria
- La Alborada (Cajita De Musica)
- Estudio Brillante
- Tango
-Capricho rabe
-Recuerdos de la Alhambra
-Grand Jota

Select at least one additional self-prepared piece for either your December or May

Francisco Trrega
Biography Quiz

Trregas teacher was _________ ________.

Trrega performed on various guitars built by _____________ _________. This luthier is

famous for his development of ______ bracing and standardizing string length to _______.