Students of the Classical Guitar have many wonderful pieces to learn and to master over a long period of time. One need not worry about running out of things to play, learn, and to be challenged by. There are some classical guitar pieces that demonstrate very ably the possibilities of the instrument. One such piece is the beautiful and challenging “Recuerdos de La Alhambra” by Francisco Tarrega. This piece has been performed by many over the years with various thrilling renditions and interpretations all showing the immense beauty and genius of the piece.
Background to the Piece
The name “Recuerdos de la Alhambra” is translated from Spanish into English as “Memories of the Alhambra”. The song was inspired by the fortress and palace “Alhambra” occupied by the Moorish monarchs in Southern Spain near Granada. The buildings of this palace and fortress exemplify well the culture of the Moors of Spain around the 9th Century. It was this great site of national significance in Spain that inspired Tarrega’s beautiful guitar piece. Tarrega wrote the piece around 1896 while in Granada not far from the Alhambra itself. Tarrega mixed Classical Romantic influences with Spanish folk music to create this important guitar piece.
Technical Features of the Piece
The song is well known for its demonstration of the technique of tremolo. In this particular piece, the ring, middle, and index fingers are played in continuous succession at a rapid speed while the thumb is used to provide counter-melody. When the piece is played accurately, many hearers unfamiliar with the technique may mistake one guitar for two. The use of tremolo is certainly the most demanding aspect of performing the piece as the left-hand work is not nearly as demanding as the right-hand work. It takes many students a considerable amount of time to build up the speed and accuracy necessary to properly perform the tremolo for this piece. When the piece is performed properly, it is a beautiful and dazzling piece of music.
Another feature of the piece is the use of two different sections in two different keys. The piece switches between A Minor and A Major. This modulation between major and minor keys is common in much Spanish Classical Guitar music. It can be seen particularly in the anonymous traditional “Spanish Romance” or “Spanish Ballad”. Such a form of modulation is well known for creating a “melancholy” feel then moving to a “uplifting” feeling of resolution. This final resolution is heard at the end of the piece when it ends on a low A Major Chord.
Renditions and Resources for the Piece
There are of course quite a few good renditions of this piece. For an example of the piece, Jim Greeninger’s performance is good to watch (over 3 million views on Youtube). See below:
For free sheet music, click here.