John Williams – King of Classical Guitarists


I am currently reading a biography of this great classical guitarist called, ‘Strings Attached: The Life and Music of John Williams’ by William Starling and published in 2013. So far I am finding it dry reading, so I decided to see what was available on the internet.

The most comprehensive videoed interview with this giant of the classical guitar world that I could find is the four-part production by GuitarCoop:
Part 1 – The Early Years
Part 2 – The Musical Experience
Part 3 – The Composers
Part 4 – Final

However, the overview of his various collaborations (particularly with Julian Bream) that I found the most enjoyable was the 2016 John Williams (Classical Guitar) at the BBC. This 58-minute production contains several full pieces played by the maestro.

There is also a  transcript of an interesting  interview by Classical Guitar Magazine, summer 2016 edition, titled ‘Amazing Legacy: John Williams Reflects on Five Decades of Recordings’.

John Williams is a champion of Greg Smallman guitars which, when he first tried one out were unknown but now sell new for around $36,000. Classical Guitar Review interviewed John in 2010 and in Part Three of their publication he gave the reasons for his switch from Fleta to Smallman guitars.

Serval years after first meeting Greg Smallman, John visited him in his workshop deep in the Australian wilds and here is a short video clip of that visit.

El noi de la mare by Llobet

Performed here by Edson Lopes

A level 5 (intermediate) performance piece.

A Catalan folk song, which is both a lullaby and a Christmas song. The title is Catalan for “the mother’s baby boy”, where the mother refers to the Virgin Mary and the boy is the baby Jesus.

Miguel Llobet (18 October 1878 – 22 February 1938) was a Spanish classical guitarist, and a renowned virtuoso who toured Europe and America extensively. He arranged several Catalan folk songs for the solo guitar, as well as arrangements for the guitar of the piano compositions of Isaac Albéniz.

HERE is the musical score for this piece

A performance of the same piece by the famous Performed by Andres Segovia.

“Torija” from Castillos de España by Federico Moreno-Torroba.


Level/Grade 4 (Guitarburst level 7)

The castle of Torija is in the Guadalajara province, located just off the road between Madrid and Barcelona. Torroba (1891-1982) also composed operas, but he is best remembered for his works written for the classical guitar.

Per-Olov Kindren plays with his usaul style and sensitivity.

HERE is the musical score for this lovely piece

Free classical guitar music scores

Where do I go on the www to find free classical guitar scores? I have poked around quite a lot and have found the following sites to be the best.

www.classclef.com

This site lists over 4,600 pieces in .pdf format. There is no real difficulty grading system but it does list 1,173 pieces as ‘easy’. Some of the pieces have a difficulty indicator when you click on the actual selection; for instance, Tarrega’s Lagrima is marked ‘Grade 4 Late Intermediate’.

www.thisisclassicalguitar.com

Bradford Werner has provided a nice, but by no means comprehensive, selection of graded pieces. The added value of this site is that he provides video lessons for most of the pieces listed.

www.imslp.org

The Petrucci Music Library contains a huge database of public domain music for all instruments. It is not easy to browse this collection, but the search facilities are adequate if you are looking for a composer or a particular piece. For instance, a search for ‘Tarrega’ yields 51 pieces and a search for ‘Largrima’ yields no less than 7 available transcriptions. Unfortunately, there are no indications of playing difficulty. However, you could use www.guitarburst.com in conjunction with this site for most free guitar scores.

www.8notes.com

This site has over 600 scores, with basic difficulty level indicators, and an online synthesised audio/visual playback facility. However, it only allows a few views/downloads per every 24 hours unless you take out a paid subscription to the site.

www.classical-guitar-school.com

A reasonably good range of free music scores as well as methods and collections, but this is the site of the Guitar School of Iceland and so the commercial sections contain a lot more material that you will have to pay for.

www.delcamp.net

This site is more than just a forum and contains sections of graded classical guitar music. The drawback is that you have to become an active member of the forum in order to access most of these collections. In addition, the choice of music tends more towards the Baroque than anything else.

I hope this is useful to you – have fun and enjoy learning new stuff.

Beautiful Guitars

I love the look of well made classical guitars. Here are three beautiful guitars worth show-casing.

‘Black Diamond’  by Rafał Turkowiak

Design features include: •   Acoustic Tubes – special ‘holes’ placed in the neck that increase resonance and reduce neck mass.         •     WAVE type resonator – increases vibration through the soundboard; reduced bridge mass.

 Specs:

  • Top – Western Red Cedar
  • Back and Sides – Black and White Ebony
  • Arched back
  • Neck – Flame Maple
  • Fretboard – Ebony
  • Head – Crafted with natural black diamonds and authentic Mother of Pearl
  • Bridge – Black and White Ebony with Mother of Pearl
  • Armrest – Bevelled
  • Tuners – Ebony, Aluminium, White Mother of Pearl with an 18:1 ratio
  • Fret markers – Mother of Pearl
  • Varnish – French polish

 

 ‘No. 22’ by Zebulon Turrentine

Specs:

  • Top – Western Red Cedar
  • Back and Sides – African Mahogany
  • Fretboard – West African Ebony
  • Bridge – African Padauk
  • Bracing – Asymmetric lattice
  • French polish with shellac
  • Scale length – 650mm
  • Jumbo Gold EVO frets
  • Der Jung tuners

Grand Concert by Robert & Orville Milburn

Materials: Rare African blackwood sides and back, close straight grain European spruce soundboard with extensive cross grain silk, rare snakewood bindings, African Blackwood head veneers, black/white/black hairline purling, mammoth ivory saddle and bridge tie block decoration, perfectly executed side grain mosaic rosette, Rodgers tuning machine heads, impeccable French polish of finish.

Tarrega: “Adelita” – by Per-Olov Kindgren

Adelita is one of Tarrega’s most well-known compositions and is played by amateurs and professionals alike. Apparently, Tárrega named the piece Adelita because he dedicated the piece to the illegitimate daughter King Alfonso XII, Adela Aimerich.

Here Per-OLov Kindgren plays the piece, which I have graded as Level 6 (Higher exit).

History of the classical guitar


The early history of the guitar is not clear, but historians have documented developments over the last several hundred years.

HERE is an article based largley on research conducted by Don King (no not the boxing promoter).

Winter(largo) by Vivaldi played by Steven Law

This is a Level/Grade 5 (Intermediate) piece composed by Vivaldi for the violin and transposed for the guitar. Antonio Lucio Vivaldi was an Italian Baroque composer, virtuoso violinist, teacher and cleric. Born in Venice, he was as one of the greatest Baroque composers, and his influence during his lifetime was widespread across Europe.

The piece is played by Steven Law, a member of a new breed of musical star who connect with fans directly through the Internet. His hundreds of guitar videos often feature tunes from modern pop songs and anime, and have been freely shared millions of times by grateful fans all over the world.