Trinidad Francisco Huerta y Caturla
(b. Orihuela, 8 June 1800; d. Paris, 19 June 1874)

Trinidad Huerta was acclaimed during his lifetime as "the Paganini of the guitar." He was highly praised by Hector Berlioz and Victor Hugo. A music critic for La revue musicale declared that Huerta was the best guitarist he had ever heard—even while Fernando Sor and Dionisio Aguado were performing in Paris. The Allgemeine Musikalische Zeitung went further and claimed Huerta to be the greatest living guitarist. Yet Huerta is completely unknown to classical guitar audiences today. This probably resulted from a decline in his later years that brought him to die in poverty in Paris, forgotten there as well as in his native Spain.

Nonetheless, Huerta's achievements were considerable. Paris music critic Arthur Pougin (1834-1921) claimed that he wrote the "Himno de Riego," formerly the Spanish national anthem. Huerta was the first classical guitarist to concertize in the United States (1825) and he toured Spain, Portugal, England and France, and even claimed to have traveled to the Middle East with Sir Moses and Lady Judith Montefiore. Contemporary critics were astounded by his technique and simultaneously applauded and criticized his trying to make the guitar a symphonic instrument. A century before Segovia, Huerta did much to overcome the stereotype of the guitar as an inferior instrument, only useful for strumming accompaniments to parlor songs. Berlioz, in his Grand Traité d'Instrumentation, advised "If one wants to get an idea of what virtuosos are able to achieve..., the compositions of such famous guitar players as Zanni de Ferranti, Huerta, Sor, etc. should be studied."

Judging from existing opus numbers, Huerta composed at least 64 works. A new edition, edited by Robert Coldwell and Javier Suárez-Pajares, presents 24 of these works together with all historical information on Huerta compiled to date.

A world-premiere CD recording on the Harmonicorde label, with guitarist Stuart Green, soprano Teresa Radomski, and pianist James Radomski, made the extant works of Huerta available to the listener for the first time in 2002. The recording features a reproduction of a Panormo guitar (Louis Panormo, b. 1784; d. 1862) built by Koji Ishii in San Bernardino California. The warm sound of the Panormo guitar is especially suited to the music of Huerta because, inasmuch as Huerta was married to Panormo's daughter, he most certainly played a Panormo guitar.

Click here to purchase the CD at Amazon.com:

Listen: No. 4 of Huerta's "Six Waltzes for Guitar"

More recently, with the extensive research of Robert Coldwell and Javier Suárez-Pajares, many more Huerta works have resurfaced and these have been recorded exquisitely by guitarist Fernando Espí. A summary of the contents is available at www.diverdi.com (where it can also be purchased). It is also available at amazon.com in Spain:

Click here to purchase the CD at Amazon.com (Spain):


You can also hear a live performance by Fernando Espí of Huerta's Celebrated Fantasia founded on Rossini's Overture to Semiramide at youtube.

—James Radomski
(Published 2008)
(Updated April 23, 2013)

Robert Coldwell and Javier Suárez-Pajares (ed.) A.T. Huerta (1800-1874): Life and Works, DGA Editions, 2006.

James Radomski, "Trinidad Huerta y Caturla: First Spanish Virtuoso Guitarist to Concertize in the United States,"
Inter-American Music Review
, vol. 15 (Summer-Fall 1996), no. 2, pp. 103-121.

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