One of the most beloved Spanish post-Romantic era composers is Isaac Albéniz (1860-1909). Born in Camprodon, Catalonia, Spain, Isaac Manuel Francisco Albéniz y Pascual was a virtuoso pianist, conductor and composer.
Albéniz was a child prodigy, giving piano performances at the age of 4 and giving concerts around the world by age 15. Albéniz had a long a successful career, and inspired many future composers and instrumentalists alike (including Debussy and Ravel).
The music of Albéniz expresses a distinctive Spanish folk sensibility. With rich harmonies and impactful melodies, I find that there’s a beauty in his compositions that one never tires of! You can find some free Albéniz guitar score arrangements here.
Popular Guitar Pieces by Albéniz
Suite Española, Op. 47
Although Albéniz never composed music for the guitar, transcriptions of his pieces–especially the movements in Suite Española, Op. 47–are among the most popular in the classical guitar repertoire. As evidenced by the name, each movement of the suite is named for a different region and musical style in Spain.
- Granada (Serenade)
- Cataluña (Courante)
- Sevilla (Sevillanas)
- Cádiz (Canción)
- Asturias (Leyenda)
- Aragón (Fantasía)
- Castilla (Seguidilla)
- Cuba (Nocturno)
While each movement of the suite is stunningly beautiful and brilliant, the ones that tend to be performed most often are Asturias, Granada, Sevilla, and Cádiz.
In addition to the audio recordings above, I recommend you check out videos of Julian Bream playing various movements of the suite across different regions of Spain:
What’s the best guitar arrangement for Suite Española, Op.47 by Albéniz?
I strongly recommend you get the newly revised full suite edition Arranged by Manuel Barrueco. Barrueco’s 1981 edition was already widely considered one of the best for the entire suite, and the new 2020 edition is even better with important fingering improvements.
Mallorca (sometimes spelled Majorca) is a mysterious, hauntingly beautiful composition inspired by Spanish Island (Mallorca). The Moorish influence is clear in the music, shifting from minor to major keys seamlessly in a character that so distinctly “Albéniz”. Roughly 1/3 of the way through the piece the rhythm picks up and reaches a dramatic climax in a major key.
The piece was transcribed for guitar by Andres Segovia, along with many others. Julian Bream plays of my personal favorite interpretations in this recording:
Rumores de la Caleta (Malagueña) – Recuredos de viaje, Op.71: No.8
Following a brief arpegiated introduction, Rumores de la Caleta gets off to a fiery start. It’s clear that the piece was inspired by the flamenco Malagueña form. Strong rasgueado strumming and a powerful ligado bass lines bring an intensity to this piece that not just any guitarist can pull off (pun intended).
Considering that Rumores de la Caleta incorporates techniques that make it sounds as though it was organically composed for the guitar, it’s hard to imagine the music being played on any other instrument. Jason Vieaux has one of my favorite interpretations of the piece: