Lágrima is one of Tárrega’s best-known compositions, and is a favorite among classical guitarists, students, and audiences alike. Only 16 measures long, the piece was originally intended as an etude for Tárrega’s students, and is a short, melodious work in ternary form. Although the exact date of composition is not definitively known, there is a general consensus that it was most likely written in the 1890’s. The title of the piece translates as “teardrop,” and is rumored to have been written while Tárrega was touring in England and experiencing homesickness for his native country, Spain. The A section is in E major, has a lyrical melody, and follows a typical antecedent – consequent phrase structure. The B section is of contrasting character in both content and key. It is in E minor, the parallel minor of E major, and the melody travels into the higher positions of the fretboard. However, it also follows the antecedent – consequent phrase structure of the A section. After the conclusion of the B section, the A section is repeated to end the piece.
Lágrima, A section (measures 1 – 4):
Lágrima, B section (measures 9 – 12):
The short length and lyrical melody of this piece illustrates the influence of Spanish musical culture, and the clear phrases and consistent antecedent – consequent phrase structure shows Tárrega’s understanding of classical music conventions. His use of same-string shifts to the higher positions of the fretboard creates a warmer and more resonant sound, which was made possible by the revolutionary innovations of Spanish luthier, Antonio de Torres. In addition, the evocative title and alleged backstory of a homesick Tárrega pining for the customs of his home country shows the influence of program music, a popular musical trend throughout the nineteenth century. As can be seen in Lágrima, Tárrega viewed the guitar much like a piano, performing the melody, accompaniment, and inner voices simultaneously.
Resources for further information on Lágrima, Tárrega, and his music:
Heck, Thomas F. “Tárrega (y Eixea), Francisco.” Grove Music Online. Edited by Deane Root. Accessed Accessed 26 July, 2020. https://www.oxfordmusiconline.com.
Pujol, Emilio, Patrick Burns, ed. The Biography of Francisco Tarrega. Translated by Jessica Burns. New Mexico: Chilitones Music Publishing, 2009.
Ribiero Alves, Júlio. “The History of the Guitar: Its Origins and Evolution.” Marshall Digital Scholar (Fall 2015): 1-169.
Tárrega, Francisco. Lagrima – Preludio by Tarrega. Prepared from the autographs and earliest printed sources by Bradford Werner. Rev. Ed. Victoria, BC: Werner Guitar Editions, 2017. https://www.thisisclassicalguitar.com/lagrima-by-tarrega-free-pdf/
Wade, Graham. Traditions of the Classical Guitar. Richmond, UK: Overture Publishing, 2012.