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For the past 400 years, the guitar has probably been the most popular and accessible of all instruments. Here we showcase 20 of the instrument’s greatest classical exponents.
Foscarini was well known and highly regarded as a lutenist both in Italy and abroad, especially at the court of Archduke Alberto in the Spanish Netherlands (pictured). Foscarini's 'First, Second and Third Books of Spanish Guitar', printed around 1630, are the earliest known examples of engraved Italian guitar music.
Composer, guitarist, organist and priest, Sanz studied at the University of Salamanca, where he was later appointed Professor of Music. He wrote three volumes of tutorials for the baroque guitar that are still an important part of today's classical guitar repertory and have helped scholars understand the techniques of baroque guitar playing.
De Visée was a lutenist, guitarist, theorbo and viol player at the court of French kings, Louis XIV and Louis XV. He was also a singer and composer for lute, theorbo and guitar. He published two books of compositions which contain 12 suites between them.
A notable military man, Lhoyer died in poverty and obscurity. But research has revived interest in his music resulting in some modern recordings and additions to the repertoire, especially some excellent guitar duets. He was a Knight of the Order of St. John and a Knight of the Order of St. Louis (pictured).
Carulli was the author of the influential 'Methode complete pour la Guitarre', which includes music that is still used by student guitarists today. Carulli wrote more than 400 works for the instrument, including numerous solo and chamber works and several concertos.
Best known for his guitar compositions, Sor also wrote music for opera, orchestra, string quartet, piano, voice, and ballet. His guitar works range from pieces for beginners to advanced players. He was considered in his time to be the best guitarist in the world.
In the early 19th century, Giuliani’s concert tours took him all over Europe. He was acclaimed everywhere for his virtuosity and defined a new role for the guitar. He also knew the likes of Rossini and Beethoven, and played with the best concert musicians in Vienna.
A virtuoso guitarist, Carcassi spent most of his life in Paris but was particularly lauded in London for his hugely successful concerts. His most famous works blend technical skill with romanticism and are still played by many guitarists today.
Coste studied under Sor and quickly established himself as the leading French virtuoso guitarist. After breaking his arm in 1863, he continued to teach guitar and composition. He is one of the first composers to transcribe guitar music of the 17th century into modern musical notation.
This Hungarian guitarist and composer established a solid reputation as a performer, as well as an unusual right hand technique. His guitar music, unlike that of most of his contemporaries, followed in the Romantic piano styles of Chopin, Mendelssohn, Schubert and Schumann.
A true virtuoso, Tarrega laid the foundations for 20th century classical guitar and for increasing interest in the guitar. He transcribed 120 pieces and composed 78 original works including ‘probably the world's most heard tune’ - the Nokia ringtone, which is based on his Gran Vals.
Segovia was one of the greatest guitarists of all time, remembered for his superb performances, his distinctive tone and style. Another lasting contribution he made was his own transcriptions of classical and baroque works. He is pictured here in 1977 with his fellow countryman, Placido Domingo.
Yepes made his Madrid début in 1947 performing Rodrigo's Concierto de Aranjuez. His overwhelming success brought him renown from critics and public alike. In 1964, he performed it again with the Berlin Philharmonic, premièring a 10-string guitar which he invented. A significant scholar, he discovered numerous 16th and 17th-century works for guitar or lute.
One of the world’s greatest guitarists, Bream received his first instrument at 11 and went on to study at the Royal College of Music. Accomplished in a wide-ranging repertoire, Bream inspired original compositions from the likes of Malcom Arnold, Britten, Richard Rodney Bennett, Tippett and Walton.
This brilliant Australian is renowned for his ensemble playing as well as his interpretation and promotion of the modern guitar repertoire. His technique has often been described as virtually flawless. He also played in the instrumental group Sky, which fused a variety of styles including rock, classical and jazz.
This world-renowned guitarist is particularly famous for his outstanding technique and colourful musical interpretations. He has recorded more than 50 solo albums and 30 albums as part of the famed family quartet , The Romeros. A number of composers including Rodrigo have written works specifically for him. He is also a popular Flamenco performer.
American Tanenbaum made his concert debut at 16. He has since become known as an enthusiastic promoter of new music for his instrument. He premiered Peter Maxwell Davies's Sonata in 1984. His discography also includes music by John Adams, Ástor Piazzolla, Steve Reich and Michael Tippett.
One of the world’s finest guitarists, Ogden’s recordings have received wide acclaim. In 2004 he was honoured by the Royal Northern College of Music in Manchester with a Fellowship – the youngest instrumentalist to have received this award. He is Principal Lecturer in Guitar at the RNCM.
Born in Beijing, Xuefei Yang is the first ever Chinese guitarist to launch an international career. Rodrigo attended her debut concert in Madrid when she was 14 and in 1995, John Williams presented two of his own guitars to her Conservatory especially for her and other top students to play. She is now acclaimed as one of the world’s greatest.
Montenegro-born Miloš Karadaglić began making appearances in major concert halls by the time he was 14. He has since made prestigious appearances around the world. His career goes from strength to strength with a new recording of Rodrigo's Concierto de Aranjuez just out.