Important Figures of the Classical Guitar

The following list contains many important figures of the classical guitar, including composers, performers, and builders. It is not exhaustive by any means, but hopefully will provide you with a good start.

Antonio de Torres Jurado

Torres is generally credited with establishing the standards regarding modern classical guitar construction. By increasing the overall size and focusing on the projecting qualities of the soundboard, Torres made the classical guitar a viable solo and concert instrument. His system of fan bracing also increased the guitar's durability and allowed for lighter soundboards, improving the instrument's tone. His contributions to classical guitar construction easily make him one of the most important figures of the classical guitar.

Fernando Sor

Himself a celebrated guitarist and virtuoso, Fernando Sor has perhaps contributed more to the respect of the guitar as a viable instrument for serious composition than any other composer to date. Although he composed music for other instruments as well as for voice, his numerous classical guitar compositions have secured his fame for posterity. Sor also wrote a celebrated and comprehensive method for studying guitar.

Heitor Villa-Lobos

A self-trained guitarist as well as cellist and violaist, Brazilian Villa-Lobos's compositions are noted for their fusion of popular folk music of his home country with traditional classical music. Noted classical guitarist Andrés Segovia commissioned Villa-Lobos to write a study for him. The result was a series of 12 etudes which are still considered necessary repertoire for any serious classical guitarist.

Andres Segovia Performance
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Andrés Segovia

If any name has become synonymous with classical guitar, it is Andrés Segovia. A self-taught guitarist who initially began as a violinist, Segovia has a well-earned reputation as a true maestro. Known for his rigorous demands from both his students and himself, Segovia's self-developed technique actually expanded his grasp of the instrument rather than hindering it and showed his critics (including his parents) what range the guitar was capable of as a solo instrument. A noted transcriptionist who also commissioned several works, Segovia performed professionally for several decades until his death in 1987, leaving behind a legacy that easily made him one of the most important figures of the classical guitar.

Julian Bream

Born to a musical family, specifically a father who played jazz guitar, Julian Bream displayed prodigious talent from an early age and was admitted to the Royal College of Music to study piano and cello, though he had already started giving formal concerts as a guitarist. Known for a wide range of styles and influences, Bream is also a noted lutenist who has contributed much to that instrument's recent resurgence. His eclectic repertoire and technical mastery make him one of the most renowned guitarists since Segovia.

John Williams

Lauded by some as the most technically proficient guitarist in recent memory, John Williams was taught initially by his father, himself a talented guitarist. He eventually impressed noted guitarist Andrés Segovia, who took Williams on as a pupil for several years (though Williams would eventually come to question Segovia's teaching methods). In addition to his excellent technique, Williams is a noted ensemble player who is also unafraid to embrace more popular forms of music, even collaborating with The Who's Pete Townsend on occasion.

Eliot Fisk

One of Andrés Segovia's most celebrated students, Eliot Fisk is noted not only for his technical prowess and wide range of repertoire, but is particularly passionate about teaching and making "art" music more accessible to the masses. Although he is no stranger to the concert hall, he also performs in arenas such as schools and retirement homes, even prisons on occasion. A graduate of Yale University, Fisk was the founder of the school's guitar program and the last direct pupil of Segovia.

Christopher Parkening

A recognized prodigy who entered the University of Southern California originally to study cello since the school had no guitar department, he was asked as a sophomore to begin the department. Recognized by Segovia as one of the finest guitarists in the world and proud to continue in the tradition of his mentor, Parkening eventually would retire from playing to retire in relative seclusion. However, a conversion to Christianity inspired him to once again perform regularly, offering his playing to God rather than focusing upon his own accomplishments.

Important Figures of the Classical Guitar - Final Words

I admit - the above list is subjective. But I'd love to hear from you! If there are any names you'd like added to this list, send me a message and let me know what you think.

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