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