The great 19th-century guitarist/composer Francisco Tárrega was by all accounts also a very fine pianist, whose friends included Albéniz and Granados, while Chopin himself was much enamoured of the sound of a guitar, admitting that nothing was more beautiful – except maybe two. So not only are Tárrega’s guitar transcriptions of Chopin’s piano music likely to be – putting aside an avidness for portamentos and glissandos characteristic of his age – superbly executed: Chopin probably would have been delighted with the result.
For my money the best Chopin/Tárrega on disc is still Finnish guitarist Timo Korhonen’s (Ondine) – subtly romantic and richly characterised. But Korhonen doesn’t include any original Tárrega, whereas talented young Swedish guitarist Mattias Jacobsson, whose teachers included Sharon Isbin and Göran Söllscher, does something smart here by presenting a selection of preludes and mazurkas by both composers (all the Chopin transcriptions are by Tárrega) side by side, allowing direct comparison. As a result, not only does the stylistic influence of Chopin’s music on Tárrega’s become even more apparent; instances of literalism, such as the use of the repeated dominant note in Chopin’s ‘Raindrop’ Prelude echoed by a similar device in Tárrega’s prelude Lagrima (the Spanish for ‘teardrop’ – geddit?) are thrust under the spotlight.
Jacobsson also includes other Tárrega favourites such as Capricho árabe and Recuerdos de la Alhambra, as well as a selection of well-known works by Tárrega pupils Miguel Llobet and Emilio Pujol. The playing throughout is refined, intelligent and highly musical; the tone, though never sweet, is fulsome and appealing. An outstanding debut.