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Spain is to the guitar as Wales is to male-voice choirs. Nearly every well-known piece of music for the instrument seems to have originated in the sun-soaked country, from the much loved concertos of Rodrigo through to this short, unaccompanied miniature by Francisco Tárrega. No one really knows when it was written; all we can say is that its composition is likely to date from the latter half of the nineteenth century.
Despite this beguiling melody sounding beautifully simple, Tárrega really stretches the soloist to the limit with it. For a start, the left-hand positions required of the guitarist are rather awkward, involving all sorts of unusual stretches. On top of that, the use of tremolo (very fast, repeated playing of the notes that sit under the main tune) is a technical challenge for any performer. And to top it all, there’s a serenity to the melody that has to be retained at all costs if the piece is to sound right – and that’s pretty hard to do with everything else that’s going on!
The Recuerdos de la Alhambra was apparently dedicated to a friend, with Tárrega writing on the original manuscript, "since I cannot offer you a present of any worth on your birthday, accept this humble poetic impression, made on my soul by the grandiose marvel of the Alhambra of Granada we both admire".
Julian Bream (guitar). RCA: 09026 618482.
Illustration: Mark Millington