Francisco Tárrega


Classic FM Hall of Fame Biogs

Francisco Tárrega (1852-1909) was an influential Spanish composer and guitarist of the Romantic period.

Life and Music

  • Tárrega'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 the child would take his father's guitar and attempt to make the beautiful sounds he had heard.
  • An infection permanently impaired his eyesight and when the family moved to Castellón the child was enrolled in music classes.
  • In 1862, concert guitarist Julián Arcas, on tour in Castellón, heard the young Tárrega play and advised Tárrega's father to allow Francisco to come to Barcelona to study with him.
  • Three years later he ran away again, this time to Valencia where he joined a gang of gypsies. He ran away a third time, again to Valencia. By his early teens, Tárrega was proficient on both the piano and the guitar.
  • Tárrega entered the Madrid Conservatory in 1874, under the sponsorship of a wealthy merchant named Antonio Canesa.
  • During the winter of 1880, Tárrega 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, María José Rizo, who was learning to play guitar. Soon they were engaged. 
  • 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, in 1909. He died in Barcelona thirteen days later, at the age of 57.
  • He is also the composer of what has been claimed to be "probably the world's most heard tune": the Nokia ringtone, Nokia tune, or simply Nokia, also used in advertising spots, is based on Tárrega's Gran Vals. 

Did you know?

In about 1902, Tárrega cut his fingernails and created a sound that would become typical of those guitarists associated with his school.


Top Tárrega Pieces