Get inspired by listening to the classical guitar with some recommendations from the Spanish Guitar Centre

The Spanish Guitar Centre has been lucky to be associated with, and to have put on in concert a number of the worlds leading classical guitarists.

 

Below are a list of some of the players that have come to Bristol over the years, some information about them and also links if you’re interested to download or buy some of their music.

Xuefei Yang

Xuefei Yang has won numerous prizes in music competitions including the Stotsenberg International Classical Guitar Competition, the San Francisco International Guitar Competition and the Young Concert Artist International competition in the United States, and the Darwin International Guitar Competition in Australia.

Concert appearances have included playing Rodrigos Fantasia para un Gentilhombre with the BBC Concert Orchestra and Concierto de Aranjuez with the Royal Academy of Music Symphony Orchestra at Dukes Hall.

Xuefei Yang has appeared on numerous radio and television programmes, including BBC Radio 4 Womans Hour, BBC Proms, BBC TVs Newsnight, & The Story of Guitar, ITVs Classic BRITs, & prime-time national TV in Spain, New Zealand, Portugal and china.

A capacity audience enjoyed an excellent recital at the Performing Arts Centre at Red Maids’ School in Bristol.

classical guitarist XuefeiYangThroughout a very substantial programme, Yang alternated between two guitars, one a Smallman, the other a Fisher, and the audience responded with rapt attention, hardly a cough being heard to interrupt the musical flow.

The first half closed with a fluent performance of one of the guitars most important modern works, the Nocturnal after John Dowland by Benjamin Britten.

The programme continued in the second half with Bach’s monumental Chaconne, again in a transcription by the artist. This received a well-thought out and moving performance and was clearly much appreciated.

The music of Paco de Lucia does not usually figure in classical guitar recitals, but seemed to cause no problems to the fingers of Ms Yang, who explained that she did not usually play flamenco but was inspired to play Fuente y Caudal as a tribute to the great flamenco guitarist, who died earlier in the year.

This was a highly successful and enjoyable evening of guitar playing, delivered by a musician whose charming stage presence, consummate technique and musicality left nothing wanting.

If you want to hear music by Xuefei Yang, below are three albums that we recommend. You can click on the images to buy online.

Romance de Amor

Romance de Amor by Xuefei Yang for the Classical guitar

Amor demonstrates Xue Fei Yang’s ability to blend technical virtuosity with a depth of musicianship. Yang presents compositions from all over the world, but she gives the album an overall feeling of cohesion. She plays each of these tracks beautifully, and in a way that will draw the listener back for years to come.

Colours of Brazil

Colours of Brazil by Xuefei Yang for the Classical guitar

“Colours of Brazil is the fruit of my long-time passion for Brazilian music. A music rich in beautiful melodies, infectious rhythms, and intricate harmonies that is distinctly and recognisably Brazilian. A music in which the guitar plays a central role.

My album celebrates some of the many musicians who shaped Brazilian music during the twentieth century (and some taking it into the twenty-first century) and established the guitar as an important part of this unique sound. It reflects my own personal favourites from the wide and deep pool of Brazilian music.

A few of the names are now internationally recognised but most, whilst celebrated in Brazil, remain little known outside their homeland. It is my desire to bring their memory and music to a wider audience.” – Xuefei Yang

Songs from Our Ancestors

Songs from Our Ancestors by Xuefei Yang for the Classical guitar

Celebrating the candlelit intimacy and storytelling environment of the Sam Wanamaker Playhouse, Songs from Our Ancestors marks the debut release of Globe Music.

A highly anticipated collaboration between British tenor Ian Bostridge and award-winning Chinese guitarist Xuefei Yang is a collection of English and Chinese folk songs captured for the first time on disc.

The album presents a carefully selected collection of songs that reflects their respective heritages, from pieces by John Dowland to Schubert and Benjamin Britten via Chinese and English folk settings, and two premieres commissioned by Bostridge and Yang by Stephen Goss and Chen Yi. Intersecting with the history of the Playhouse are folk tunes from the Ming Dynasty and five of Dowland’s most iconic songs, marking the first time Ian Bostridge has recorded this famous English material.

Berta Rojas

Berta Rojas is a Paraguayan classical guitarist. In 2012 she was nominated for Best Instrumental Album in the Latin Grammys for her album “Día y Medio (A Day and a Half)” which she recorded with Paquito D’Rivera. For her album “Salsa Roja (Red Sauce)”, She was nominated at the 2014 Latin Grammy Awards, in the category of Best Classical Album. She got her 3rd nomination on 2015, for her album “History of Tango”, which she recorded with the iconic Camerata Bariloche, for Best Tango Album.

A full house warmly welcomed Berta Rojas on her return to the Performing Arts Centre in Bristol, for a concert promoted jointly by the Spanish Guitar Centre and the Bristol Classical Guitar Society, of which Ms Rojas is Patron.

classical guitarist berta rojas

The programme leading up to the interval consisted of contemporary music by living composers, and began with a piece entitled Laura, by Vincent Lindsey-Clark. This had a Latin American feel, with a very full texture allowing the artist to demonstrate her commanding technique.

Continuing with works by Vincent Lindsey-Clark we heard three movements from the suite Fiesta Americana, which was written for, and dedicated to, Berta Rojas.

After the interval, the rest of the programme was given over to the music of Agustin Barrios, of which Berta Rojas is the leading exponent.

The six pieces presented really captured the essence of Barrios, especially the first, Un Sueno en la Floresta, in which one can imagine Barrios conjuring up sounds from his guitar while in the forests of Paraguay.

Classical Guitarist Berta Rojas

This was a most successful concert for all concerned, and Berta Rojas next visit to Bristol will be eagerly awaited. Full review of concert by Berta Rojas by Alan Sheppard.

If you want to hear music by Berta Rojas, below are three albums that we recommend. You can click on the images to buy online.

Intimate Barrios

Intimate Barrios by Berta Rojas for the Classical guitar

“The qualities of Barrios are aurally conveyed to us through the music by Rojas: love of beauty, goodness, spirituality and love itself. There is great tenderness in some of the interpretations but Rojas is capable of chameleon-like swings in mood as required in La Catedral, and the transition from Choro da Saudade to Las Abejas.” – Zane Turner, Guitar International

Historia del Tango

Historia del Tango by Berta Rojas & Camerata Bariloche for the Classical guitar

“All in all, it’s a lively, creative, and altogether brilliant excursion into the world of tangos, milongas, and Argentinian popular music. Just as Rojas turned out to be a definitive interpreter on Barrios (Intimate Barrios), she can now add Piazzolla and tango repertoire to her impressive list of conquests.” – Blair Jackson, Classical Guitar Magazine

Cielo Abierto

Cielo Abierto by Berta Rojas for the Classical guitar

“This is a fascinating disc, impeccably and inventively performed and one which all lovers of guitar music should own.” – Steve Marsh, Classical Guitar Magazine

David Leisner

Leisner won the top prizes in the 1975 Toronto and 1981 Geneva International Guitar Competitions. In the 1980s, he was disabled by focal dystonia, a disorder that affected his right hand when playing guitar. He sought the advice of medical professionals from medical doctors of western medicine to acupuncturists without finding a cure. Although during this period he became an important and respected personality in the composition world, he was unable to keep away from the stage. He began performing music using only a few of the fingers on his right hand, and he performed difficult works that dazzled audiences unaware that he was injured. Eventually, through his study of large-muscle groups, he healed himself and teaches his discoveries to students in master classes and private lessons.

Classical Guitarist David Leisner

The Spanish Guitar Centre was lucky enough to put Leisner on in concert at the Performing Arts Centre, Red Maids’ School in Bristol.

Classical Guitarist David LeisnerThe first item was the Grand Sonata No. 1 by Wenzeslaus Matiegka. Leisner made the piece his own and lovingly furnishes the industrious construction with a deep understanding. Harmonically and rhythmically it does not leap out, but the ideas are most succinct and Leisner really does bring a slice of 19th century salonistica to life; especially in the charming étouffée-embellished cadenza.

Bach’s Prelude Fugue and Allegro BWV 998 one of his most appealing works currently performed on the classical guitar, was played with, again, a great sense of form. Leisner does not rush the lines and allows the tension to build throughout. Two sparkling pieces from Mertz, Sehnsucht and Tarantelle ended the first half.

After the break Leisner played one of his own compositions, Nel Mezzo; a paean to the mid-life crisis, to put it rather crassly. This three-movement work was, as one might imagine, quite restless and searching. With a furious ‘toccata of chords’ and a rondo with quotes from the lullaby ‘Hush-a-bye’, it was an unsettling work, which may be a theme in progress!

After the Valsa-Chôro from Villa-Lobos’s Suite Populaire Brésilienne, Leisner played two delightful Scott Joplin rags, The Chrysanthemum and the Maple Leaf Rag ; his own arrangements, intricate but highly functional, lovely stuff.

An encore of Villa-Lobos’s Etude No. 7 rounded off yet another fine concert in the West, organised by Chris Gilbert and Tim Royal from the Spanish Guitar Centre, Bristol. Full review by Tim Panting.

If you want to hear music by David Leisner below are three albums that we recommend. You can click on the images to buy online.

Arpeggione, David Leisner & Zuill Bailey

Arpeggione by David Leisner for the Classical guitar

“A magical outing…exceptional CD…All in all, this is a stunningly successful collaboration in every way.” Blair Jackson, Classical Guitar

“I usually enjoy anything David Leisner presents, and this is no exception. Indeed, as a program, it’s one of the most satisfying I’ve heard in quite a while…Guitar and cello recordings are few and far between, and this is one of the best.” Ken Keaton, American Record Guide

“This CD is not just for classical listeners—anyone who loves beauty and wants more of it in his or her life should buy this recording.” The Tannhäuser Gate

Facts of Life, David Leisner

Facts of life by David Leisner for the Classical guitar

“An important recording event…Facts of Life, a terrific piece, solidly structured as only a few other pieces of the contemporary repertoire, extraordinarily rich in music…an interpreter of lively intelligence and uncommon sensitivity.” il Fronimo

“This is a significant and substantial release..As for the Bach, this extended slick of premium baroque demands copious reserves of skill, stamina, and style, and Leisner shows all three in abundance.” Classical Guitar

“This piece [David Del Tredici’s Facts of Life] should be able to claim a permanent place in the solo guitar repertoire…Leisner’s performance throughout the disc is full of finesse.” Buffalo News

Favorites, David Leisner

Favorites by David Leisner for the Classical guitar

“David Leisner is among the finest guitarists currently performing and, given that the level of playing has never been higher, that means among the finest of all time.” American Record Guide

“The enduring and artistically mature David Leisner has produced a highly personal recording of his favorite works for guitar. After a lifetime of playing, studying, listening and honing each to his personal perfect aural image, the result is a program that may well be one of the top guitar discs for an Earth Time Capsule.” CVNC Online Arts Journal

Michael Partington

Michael Partington is one of the most engaging of the new generation of concert players. Praised by Classical Guitar Magazine for his “lyricism, intensity and clear technical command,” this award-winning British guitarist has performed internationally as a soloist and with ensemble to unanimous critical praise.

Mr. Partington has appeared throughout the USA, UK, Canada, Russia and Scandanavia in solo recital, with orchestra and in chamber ensembles. He has performed live on BBC Radio 3’s In Tune, BBC Radio Bristol, BBC Wales and Great Western Radio in the UK, as well as St. Paul Sunday on National Public Radio in the US, KUOW, KING FM, KZAZ, and KAOS in Washington, JPR in Oregon, KUT in Texas, and cable television in California, Montana and Washington.

Michael Partington, now based in the USA, performed at the Bradbury Centre in Bristol as part of a series of UK concerts.

Classical Guitarist MIchael PartingtonA bright start with the always fresh-sounding Coste was followed by the trio of Torroba pieces, which he gave a beautiful Spanish bravura and lyricism, the Alcazar finishing off the set with marvellous right-hand work.

The wonderful Piazzola set opened the second half, with Michael using his Martin Blackwell double-top instrument delightfully to deliver the rich and moving music. Following this was music by Stephen Goss. The work is an introspective and delicate description of a memorial chapel. The final pieces, the Albéniz, are familiar to most guitarists and pianists, but Michael’s arrangements are novel in striving to respect the piano original to the maximum, including, in Mallorca, maintaining a bass line lost in other transcriptions by using a remarkable barré held down with the thumb on the 6th string on the front of the fingerboard. The accompaniment is full, and the melodies ring through. Michael makes no compromises to simplicity in his arrangements, but handles the tough task with calm and great musicality.

If you want to hear music by Michael Partington, below are three albums that we recommend. You can click on the images to buy online.

Bryan Johanson: 24 Preludes
Bryan Johanson: 24 Preludes by Michael Partington for the Classical guitar

World Premiere recording of 24 Preludes for solo guitar by composer Bryan Johanson. A longtime advocate of this composer’s music, Michael Partington worked closely with him on the first performances of this music and the recording presented here. In Bryan’s own words: “Michael’s recording of the preludes is dazzling. His artistic understanding of this music is definitive.”

Por Caminos de Santiago
Por Caminos de Santiago by Michael Partington for the Classical guitar

Partington revisits the Spanish guitar music that first stirred his love of the instrument as a youngster growing up in Wales. The 22 tracks span nearly a century of composition for the instrument and include works by Spanish masters Albéniz, Falla, Llobet, Rodrigo, Tórroba, and Turina, all appropriately packaged in tribute to Caminos de Santiago, the ancient pilgrimage trail that gives the album its name.

20th Century Guitar volume II
20th Century Guitar volume II by Michael Partington for the Classical guitar

“The Brouwer Sonata has yet to receive the attention enjoyed by his more immediately appealing works; the tidy and rhythmic account presented here will surely further its cause… the wonderfully evocative Songe Capricorne, which is undoubtedly another Dyens hit in the making… Bryan Johanson’s ten-minute exploration of Las Folias… remains a worthy vehicle for Partington’s considerable technical powers… Tom Baker’s introspective Elegies, both of which provide a calming postscript to a diverse and rewarding innings… A creditable release from a very able guitarist.” – Paul Fowles, Classical Guitar Magazine

Neil Smith

Neil Smith is one of the UK’s best-known guitarists, and his reputation is worldwide. Smith’s depth of musicianship comes from a career of rare variety and prestige: he played in 60s jazz-rock bands before studying classical guitar with Adele Kramer (pupil of Miquel Llobet), John Duarte, and theory with pianist Robert Marsh; he won a scholarship to Canada to study under Alirio Diaz and Leo Brouwer.

Neil Smith

He has toured the world, recorded seven albums, performing under Sir Simon rattle and sharing the stage with Rostropovich and Segovia, and was honored to play for Her Majesty the Queen Mother’s 100th birthday. He is the author of the fascinating book Have Guitar Will Travel. He directs international guitar festivals, gives masterclasses and writes regularly for Classical Guitar magazine.

The Spanish Guitar Centre in conjuction with the Classical Guitar Society put Neil Smith on in concert at Red Maids School Performing Arts Centre. The concert was a great success, combining well known Spanish works by the Spanish composers Albéniz and Tárrega with the lesser known works by modern composers such as Rak and Morel.

If you want to hear music by Neil Smith, below are three albums that we recommend. You can click on the images to buy online.

Classical Guitarist Neil Smith

Virtuoso by Neil Smith for the Classical guitar

La Danza: Spanish Guitar Classics by Neil Smith for the Classical guitar

Neil Smith Plays John W. Duarte - Neil Smith (18) LP by Neil Smith for the Classical guitar

Andrew York

York was born in 1958 in Atlanta, Georgia and grew up in Virginia. He received degrees from James Madison University in Virginia and the University of Southern California. He studied in Spain, where he met classical guitarist John Williams. Williams has performed and recorded compositions by York. In 1989, York released his debut solo album, Perfect Sky (Timeless, 1989). He was a member of the Los Angeles Guitar Quartet until 2006.

Classical Guitarist Andrew York

The Spanish Guitar Centre was lucky enough to give York his UK debut at the Bristol Music club, then later have him on again in concert at St. Georges, Brandon Hill.

Both concerts were sensational, York played a mixture of his own compositions including “Sunburst”, “Andecy” as well arrangements such as “Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy” by Tchaikovsky, “When you wish upon a star” by Harline and “Mysterious Barricades” by Couperin.

York has had links with the Spanish Guitar Centre ever since, in particular with Tim Royal (our longest serving teacher at the Centre) – York chose one of Tim’s compositions for inclusion in his book “Jazz Guitar for Classical Cats: a Classical Guitarist’s Guide to Jazz Harmony” and also was asked by York to write the sleeve notes for his best selling CD “Into Dark”.

Chris, Andrew York and Tim at the Spanish Guitar Centre

If you want to hear music by Andrew York, below are three albums that we recommend. You can click on the images to buy online.

Into Dark

Into Dark by Andrew York for the Classical guitar

“A beautiful collection of classical-style guitar music, with a number of pieces written by the artist. Wonderful music, beautifully played, and a real joy to listen to.”

“York operates on a different plain to other guitarists! This is a great batch of tunes with a variety of moods. Most classical guitar albums get monotonous after 5 tracks, but York keeps it going till the end. If you’re looking for a recording of ‘sunburst’ it’s here, but also check out ‘marley’s ghost’ and ‘evening dance’ his other more popular works. A bach cello suite arranged for guitar makes this the perfect album if you are looking to add to your classical guitar collection.”

Perfect Sky

Perfect Sky by Andrew York for the Classical guitar

“A beautiful collection of pieces arranged for the guitar, “Perfect Sky” stands out as proof that Andrew York is the master of the six-string domain. He combines incredible technical skill with both compositional and arranging talent.”

“A beautiful collection of classical-style guitar music, with a number of pieces written by the artist. Wonderful music, beautifully played, and a real joy to listen to.”

Denouement

Denouement by Andrew York for the Classical guitar

“These are wonderful compositions for solo guitar. They are intellectually stimulating and stand up to a careful listen, but also make for pleasant background music.”

“Amazing album by an amazing composer and musician! If you love classical guitar and love Andrew York, you will not be disappointed with this.”

Helen James

Helen studied classical guitar at the Welsh College of Music and Drama and through performing with other musicians has incorporated folk, jazz, flamenco and world music styles into her playing technique.

In addition to tutoring classical and folk guitar, Helen composes instrumental and vocal music. She arranges the music and directs regular sessions for The Bristol Classical Guitar Society Ensemble and a local community singing group.

Helen James Plays Classical Guitar

Helen James Plays Classical Guitar by Helen James for the Classical guitar

(To hear Helen playing you can checkout her album on itunes by clicking on the image above)

Helen has performed with West Country Blue Notes jazz pianist John Hooper in their duo, Keyna and in the lively jazz and folk Trio, Three Piece Suite, with John Hooper and fiddler Ali Nourse. The Three Piece Suite trio ran a successful monthly venue in Somerset for almost a decade, performing with national and international guest jazz and folk musicians. Three Piece Suite toured with the legendary Fred Wedlock, performing many combined concerts.

To find out more about Helen you can check out her website http://www.helenjames.net.

StylePerformer/ComposerTitleBuy Now
ClassicalAndrew YorkPerfect SkyPerfect Sky by Andrew York for the Classical guitar
ClassicalAndrew YorkDenouementDenouement by Andrew York for the Classical guitar
ClassicalAndrew YorkInto DarkInto Dark by Andrew York for the Classical guitar
ClassicalAndrew YorkYamourYamour by Andrew York for the Classical guitar
ClassicalAndrew YorkHauser SessionsHauser Sessions by Andrew York for the Classical guitar
ClassicalNeil SmithLa Danza: Spanish Guitar ClassicsLa Danza: Spanish Guitar Classics by Neil Smith for the Classical guitar
ClassicalNeil SmithVirtuosoVirtuoso by Neil Smith for the Classical guitar
ClassicalHelen JamesHelen James Plays Classical GuitarHelen James Plays Classical Guitar by Helen James for the Classical guitar
ClassicalDavid LeisnerArpeggioneArpeggione by David Leisner for the Classical guitar
ClassicalDavid LeisnerFacts of lifeFacts of life by David Leisner for the Classical guitar
ClassicalDavid LeisnerFavoritesFavorites by David Leisner for the Classical guitar
ClassicalBerta RojasIntimate BarriosIntimate Barrios by Berta Rojas for the Classical guitar
ClassicalBerta Rojas & Camerata BarilocheHistoria del TangoHistoria del Tango by Berta Rojas & Camerata Bariloche for the Classical guitar
ClassicalBerta RojasCielo AbiertoCielo Abierto by Berta Rojas for the Classical guitar
ClassicalXuefei YangColours of BrazilColours of Brazil by Xuefei Yang for the Classical guitar
ClassicalXuefei YangForty Degrees NorthForty Degrees North by Xuefei Yang for the Classical guitar
ClassicalXuefei YangRodrigo: Concierto de AranjuezRodrigo: Concierto de Aranjuez by Xuefei Yang for the Classical guitar
ClassicalXuefei YangSongs from Our AncestorsSongs from Our Ancestors by Xuefei Yang for the Classical guitar
ClassicalXuefei YangRomance de AmorRomance de Amor by Xuefei Yang for the Classical guitar
ClassicalMichael PartingtonBryan Johanson: 24 PreludesBryan Johanson: 24 Preludes by Michael Partington for the Classical guitar
ClassicalMichael PartingtonPor Caminos de SantiagoPor Caminos de Santiago by Michael Partington for the Classical guitar
ClassicalMichael Partington20th Century Guitar volume II20th Century Guitar volume II by Michael Partington for the Classical guitar