Classical Guitar Virtuoso Profile: John Williams
John Williams' name is synonymous with flawless technique, careful and controlled interpretation, and his tireless transcriptions of composers' works that were often overlooked by his most famous tutor - Andres Segovia. In addition to this he is also well-known for his dislike of the standard teaching method encouraging solo classical guitarists to aim for virtuosity and an expansive repertoire rather than overall musicianship, playing in ensembles, and improving tone quality.
Why I Like John Williams
Interestingly enough I can't recall when or where I was when I first heard John Williams play but I do seem to think it was when I bought his documentary 'The Seville Concert'. I remember being so excited after I purchased it. I couldn't wait to get the tape home and put it into my VHS (this was before DVDs and the internet). I put it in and I was absolutely memorised. One of my most poignant memories was wondering why he used his pinky and annular fingers together when doing rest strokes.
I basically wore that video out and now I can play virtually everything that is on that recording! Along with countless others I think what drew me to John Williams was his absolute technical mastery of the guitar. To me it seemed like there was nothing that he couldn't do. Flawless tremolo, perfect phrasing, no string scrapes, speed to burn and next-level stamina. That video influenced me enough that I learned Vals Op. 8, No. 3 by Augustin Barrios and used it on my first television appearance! The Prélude from the Suite in E major BWV 1006a also formed part of my LTCL examination with the Trinity College of London.
During that period I also bought the 'Together' & 'Together again' CDs that featured John Williams and my other favourite classical guitarist Julian Bream playing as a duo!
Another reason why I liked John Williams is that he seemed perfectly comfortable pointing out why he didn't like Andres Segovia's teaching pedagogy. After watching as many Segovia teaching classes on YouTube as I could and reading blogs and articles written about that particular subject it does seem that JW had a very strong case!
This is just a brief look at John Williams. I'll be writing more about his in subsequent articles. Until then...
Let your fingers fly!