Capricho árabe by Francisco Tárrega
Hi all! I'm currently working on Capricho árabe as the first of my RCM Grade 9 pieces. I'm not sure if I'll use it for the exam someday (leaning a little more toward Barrios - Waltz 3 for the Romantic list), but it's a piece I've wanted to learn ever since I heard the classical guitar.
I'm currently three months into learning the piece. This is a recording I made at the end of month 2, and by next week I'll film a progress update. I'd really love any and all tips on how to make this piece come alive!
Thank you, and wishing a happy new year
You're off to a very good start with one of the great 'standards' of the guitar repertoire, Jon. I'll offer a few critical comments, since this seems to be what you are asking for. My main criticism is that, musically speaking, your interpretation lacks the 'capriciousness' that the title seems to call for. For my taste, the piece should have a somewhat whimsical character - for the, moment, if I can put it this way, you approach is far too 'serious'. I think this stems from the fact that you are at present focused on technical issues - on individual notes, rather than larger phrases. This of course is entirely normal as we learn new repertoire. It can take a long time until we really absorb the musical ideas. (I once attended an after-concert gathering with the great French guitarist Alexandre Lagoya. I remember him saying, that, in general, he waited two years (!!) before bringing new repertoire to the concert stage.) In any event, I think what you need to focus on is making the many scale-like flourishes in this piece sound like single musical gestures that have a particular direction. I'm not suggesting this is easy to do, not least because it involves enormous technical security - something that few amateurs possess! (I certainly don't!) But in my experience, it is usually possible to find solutions appropriate to our own technical limitations. Take, for instance, the long chromatic scale that leads into the D major section. One approach to this is to race through it in a single unrelenting accelerando. Well, I'm sure Pepe Romero can do that if he wants to. But I can't, and it's not for lack of trying! My technique just doesn't allow it - in fact, if I do try, the result will be disastrous, much worse than just playing through it slowly! Such passages demand an individualized approach. There is no one size fits all here. And indeed, if you listen to a variety of professional guitarists playing this piece, you will find that each takes this passage a little differently. I'm in no position to tell you what you need to do in this and other similar passages - but you need to find something that is musically effective while falling within your own technical capabilities.
I hope this overly wordy response has been of some use. I don't want to convey the impression that you aren't already playing this piece well. By the way, if you haven't watched it, there's a very good TonerBase 'lesson' on the Capricho Arabe with Zoran Dukic: