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Monday, July 27, 2009

Wisconsin Conservatory of Music’s Tribute to Francisco Tárrega

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The story of Spanish composer and guitar virtuoso Francisco Tárrega (1852-1909) shows the power of persistence and a little parental encouragement early in life. Young Francisco would strum his father's guitar whenever the latter wasn't playing, thus leading to his being enrolled in music classes when the family moved to Castelln. His father insisted, however, that Francisco learn both guitar and piano. Though his musical education would be somewhat disjointed, by his teens Francisco Tárrega was proficient in both instruments; in his 20s he was teaching the guitar to others, giving concerts and composing.

Tárrega's knowledge of the piano helped him tremendously in composition, especially so in his enlargement of the guitar repertoire through the transcription of piano works by other composers. He eventually composed some 78 original guitar works and 120 transcriptions, and today is considered the father of 20th-century classical guitar music and technique.

It is to Francisco Tárrega that the Wisconsin Conservatory of Music turns for the opening concert of its "Guitar Legacy Series," for all the obvious reasons. "A Tribute to Francisco Tárrega" is in the talented hands of teacher, conductor and Conservatory librarian Raymond Mueller, who will be playing a classical guitar constructed c. 1900—the recital's tripartite format follows the pattern so common a century ago as well.

The first part of the program is all Tárrega: Lagrima (prelude), Marieta (mazurka), Pavana, Three Mazurkas, the Prelude in E Major, Maria (gavota), three short preludes, and the posthumously published Danza Mora; the last a piece inspired by the rhythmic playing of an Arabian drum Trrega heard in 1900. After this, the audience will be treated to several of Tárrega's transcriptions: Bach's Sarabande and Bourree from Violin Partita, BWV 1002, Mendelssohn's Venetian Barcarola from the Lieder ohne Wrte, Op. 19, Albniz's Granada from Suite Espagnola, Op. 47. There is also an original guitar work by Tárrega's great predecessor Fernando Sorthe famous Variations on a Theme by Mozart, Op. 9. The concert concludes with three additional short preludes, Pepita (polka) and Capricho arabe, all original Tárrega compositions.

"A Tribute to Francisco Tárrega" takes place in the Helen Bader Hall of the Wisconsin Conservatory of Music on Aug. 2.