Bridget Mermikides devises a delightful solo arrangement of the Spanish composer’s bestknown tune, inspired by this Andalucian town.
Isaac Albéniz may not be a well- known composer, even though his Asturias is widely recognised. But among classical guitarists he is a hugely important figure, having composed works that are at once technically excellent, emotionally powerful and seem to capture the very essence of Spain and the guitar. It is therefore ironic that Albéniz never wrote for the guitar. He mainly wrote for the piano ( he was a piano virtuoso of great acclaim, and studied under Liszt) and also completed four operas.
However, he was very much inspired by the sound of the guitar and its role in Spanish music, emulating its strummed chords, arpeggios, pedal tones, spread voicings and ornaments. It is therefore quite natural that guitarists such as Tárrega, Llobet and, most famously, Andrés Segovia transcribed his works from piano to the guitar. Albéniz was reportedly very pleased with the results, too.
Granada ( Serenata) is the opening piece in Suite Española ( Op. 47), the very beautiful suite of eight works for solo piano, each inspired by a different region or city in Spain. I recommend you listen to them all.
Granada is named after the city of the same name in Andalusia, and home to the wonderful Alhambra palace ( which, incidentally, inspired Tarrega’s famous Recuerdos de la Alhambra tremolo work). Granada was the last of Spain’s cities under Arab rule, and there is a distinct Moorish influence in the work, particularly in the minor section ( bars 41- 120) with its augmented 2nd leaps ( from D# to F#) and its
Albéniz was inspired by the guitar, and he emulated its strummed chords, pedal tones, arpeggios, spread voicings and ornaments.
ornamented melodic expression. Albeniz had a great affinity with Granada, and he intended to express the deep spirituality of Arab culture in the work, and the resulting sublime melody – with its contrasting sultry middle section – is utterly hypnotic.
I’ve transposed the original key of F major down to E major in standard tuning to make it more idiomatic for the guitar. However, don’t be fooled by the relaxed atmosphere; this is a serious challenge to perform. The melody needs to be legato – like a vocal melody – and to achieve this while playing the accompanying chords requires both muscle memory and fretting- hand stamina.
So please take your time to learn this, break it up into sections and treat each one as an individual project, and be sure to use the tab captions to help navigate the considerable technical demands. Once you’ve developed some stamina and muscle memory, you can piece together sections, and work up to a full performance. But there’s no need to rush… it will all be worth it in the end.
Isaac Albéniz: helped develop classical guitar