¿Y quién es Señor Francisco Tarrega? Well, mis amigos, he was a Spanish guitarist and composer who lived from 1852 to 1909. Francisco is oft held as the true hombre grandissimo of the classical guitar technique, composition, and pedagogy and the man who initiated the era of the modern classical guitar.
Others though - while not denying the Maestro's importance - believe Francisco's reputation has been puffed up by his students such as Miguel Llobet, Emilio Pujol, and Daniel Fortea. Francisco's standing among guitarist was certainly solidifed by the playing of Andrés Segovia Torres . Although Andrés never met Francisco or heard him play, he performed Tarrega compositions throughout his long career and was one of the Maestro's greatest admirers. Sadly we cannot compare Francisco's playing to that of other guitarists as no recordings of Francisco exist. Even if they did it's not a given they would represent him at his best. But it's hard to believe Francisco could have built a reputation in such a guitar savvy nation as Spain unless he had something on all the other guitarists.
But everyone has heard something by Francisco. The little musical ditty ubiquitous on the early cell phone ringers (and still common today) was part of the Gran Vals by Francisco. That and many of his songs have become staples of guitarists, students and professionals. If you start off learning classical guitar it's a sure bet you will soon be playing works of Francisco Tarrega. And the aspiring guitarist soon learns that many of the songs, certainly the famous Caprichio Arabe and the tremolo composition Recuerdos de la Alhambra, though they may be of moderate tempo and aren't show pieces like the Llobet's transcriptions of the piano compositions of Issac Albéniz (well, Recuerdos is), are much harder than they appear - at least to play smoothly and well.