Our good friend Felipe Conde posted a list of his top 10 classical guitar CDs, and we instantly disagreed with everything, then realized there were some great CDs there, then thought of better ones, then realized those couldn’t really be the best, right? I mean you have to have some Segovia, but which one? Any box set? Anyway, there’s no answer, of course, but we’ve been having some fun with it, so here are Felipe Conde’s choices, followed by David Collett’s. Let us know how wrong we all are and which 10 CDs you’d take to a desert island. Forever.

From the Felipe Conde blog post:

Are you looking to delve into classical music for guitar and you are not sure where to start? Or perhaps you need help with choosing CD’s to complete your collection? If you are in any of these or similar circumstances we would like make a few recommendations that we consider simply a must. We selected 10 albums we most liked, however the list could be much longer.
1. Andrés Segovia – The Segovia Collection
Starting off with the maestro Andrés Segovia is a must. Many consider that the modern classical guitar movement begins with him and his tireless efforts to dignify the instrument during the entire 20th century. This album contains four CD´s, more than five hours of music with interpretations of composers such as Joaquín Rodrigo, Johann Sebastian Bach and many others. We can’t think of a better starting point than this.
2. Andrés Segovia – The Art of Segovia
Another fundamental Segovia collection composed of two CD´s. Through them you will enjoy the best compositions by Francisco Tárrega, Heitor Villa-Lobos, Issac Albéniz… This is, without a doubt, the option to consider for all those who wish to immerse themselves in the universe of this formidable guitarist.
3. Christopher Parkening – Parkening Plays Bach
American guitarist Christopher Parkering listened to the recordings of Andrés Segovia with devotion since an early age, and after years of work and dedication, the master himself recognized him as one of the greatest classical guitarists today. This album, published in 1990, is one of the most celebrated ones of his entire discography. Apart from Bach, the disc contains memorable interpretations of baroque masters such as Hëndel or Scarlatti.
4. Julian Bream – Villa-Lobos: Guitar Concerto; Preludes; Etudes
A guitar player’s son, and an admirer of the great Django Reinhardt since he was a child, Julian Bream knew from very early on that his future and destiny would be in the world of music. This recording of Heitor Villa-Lobos’ compositions where Bream is accompanied by André Previn and the London Symphonic Orchestra is considered by many the best he ever made.
5. David Russell – Music of Barrios
Born in Glasgow (Scotland), Galician by adoption, David Russell, a dedicated follower of the work of Andrés Segovia and Julian Bream, he also interpreted great works of the classical masters. On this occasion we would like to recommend this album recorded two years ago in which Russell delights us with his interpretations of the Paraguayan master Agustín Pío Barrios.
6. Regino Sáinz de la Maza – Concierto de Aranjuez
An interpretation of the “Concierto de Aaranjuez”, a composition by the irreplaceable Joaquín Rodrigo, could not be missed from our list of recommendations. Of course we chose the superb performance of Regino Sáinz de la Maza, the first, and one of the most applauded ones. It was precisely Rodrigo who chose this great interpreter for the world premiere of this historic piece first performed in Barcelona in 1940.
7. John Williams – Spanish Guitar Music
This album appeared in 1990, perhaps in John Williams’ best period musically speaking. This is not insignificant given that this Briton, born in Australia, is characterized by superb technique that’s very hard to find. He began playing along with his father, but he also studied under Andrés Segovia participating in his numerous master classes. On this recording you will find compositions that are simply a must such as, Fisherman´s Song or The Miller´s Dance.
8. József Eötvös – Goldberg Variations
Let us now fly over to Hungary and meet with József Eötvös. There is nothing better than carefully listening to his adaptation of the Johann Sebastian Bach’s ‘Goldberg Variations’ for a single guitar. This adaptation was his presentation to the world; he has managed to complete a task that many, until then, considered impossible. With this marvelous work he has immediately acquired the status of a maestro amongst classical guitarists.
9. Göran Söllscher – Johann Sebastian Bach – 4 Suiten Für Laute
What can we say about this album? It contains some of the most beautiful music ever written, interpreted by one of the greatest guitarists of all times. And if this isn´t tempting enough, it is performed on an eleven string guitar built by a Swedish luthier Georg Bolin. It would be very difficult to find recordings of Bach´s suites that will impress you more than this one.
10. Alexandre Lagoya – L’Art de Alexandre Lagoya avec Ida Presti
This album introduces us to a couple of virtuosos: Alexandre Lagoya and Ida Presti, perhaps the best classical guitar duo ever. They didn’t always enjoy the recognition they undoubtedly deserve, but we can assure you that once you submerge yourself into this recording, it will become one of your favorites. Six delectable CD´s that you won´t be able to stop listening.

And David Collett’s response, though he also said that if I asked him 10 times he’d have 10 different lists and might never repeat a CD, and that this was mainly a list for someone
just getting into the guitar repertoire:

1 – Julian Bream: A Celebration of Andres Segovia
2 – David Russell: Tarrega – Integral de guitarra (double CD)
3 – Pepe Romero: Music of Giuliani (double CD – includes solos & concertos, and a duo)
4 – Marcelo Kayath: Latin American Classics
5 – John Williams: The Guitarist (3 box set)
6 – Manuel Barrueco: VoxBox (3 CD set)
7 – Wulfin Lieske: Song of the Lioness
8 – Abreu Bros: The Guitars of Sergio and Eduardo Abreu
9 – Andres Segovia: Any big box set. Gotta have some Segovia
10 -Marc Teicholz: “Valseana” of course!

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18 Responses to “Top Ten Classical CDs”

  1. tom says:

    Maestro Felipe’s list is as good as any. John Williams’ ‘The Spanish Guitar Anthology’ could not be bettered as a starting point and is a great bargain: 7 disks for $15! (OK, 2 versions of Aranjuez…)
    By the way, Maestro, John Williams is an Australian and that is how he thinks of himself.

  2. James says:

    So only guys? You gotta have something by Sharon Isbin, Berta Rojas…

  3. Reyes Gonzalez says:

    I like both Mr. Conde’s list and David’s. If I were to add a few players that I’ve been into lately (newer generation, and both French), they’d be Judicaël Perroy – La magie de la guitare, and Bach: Guitar arrangements (for sure!) and Thomas Viloteau – Romàntic.

  4. Rob Beer says:

    Nothing by Narciso Yepes? Either his Rodrigo or his Scarlatti album should be there.

  5. Joe says:

    There are some groundbreaking albums we’ve missed so far…Rey de la Torre’s 20th Century Guitar (first recording of Falla’s Homenaje and Julian Orbon’s Preludio y Danza), Eduardo Fernandez’s Villa Lobos and Ginastera (in my opinion, undeniably the best recording of the Ginastera Sonata), Manuel Barrueco’s Works for Guitar (the album that put him on the map), AND REALLY?!, nobody remember Julian Bream’s 20th Century Guitar?! That album decisively changed the face of classical guitar. I am glad to see that Bream’s A Celebration of Andres Segovia made one list…unbelievable album. And no Yepes? The world of classical guitar is becoming way too sterile….

  6. Reli Suyskens says:

    Anyone ever listened to the recordings of mr. Baltazar Benítez?
    Recordings of Bach & Scarlatti
    Recordings of Piazzolla, Ponce, Barrios, Carlevaro ????
    Here a link:

    I find it very very strange (a shame) that David Russell himself, John Williams himself, and all the other himselfs never ever even have cared to name this ABSOLUTE WINNER GUITARIST!
    I fear that so much silence is the proof that all those autorities in fact recognised the true master. And believe me, i am NOT at all a fanatic in any part of life.

    In fact he is the only one sounding guitarmusic as if there was no fysical effort whatsoever necesary, but on the contrary with LOTS and LOTS more phrasing, colour, dynamics and musical ideas.

    Very much worth a BIG HONOURING SPECIAL. I will be happy to help you with it.

    Kind regards,

    Reli Suyskens.

  7. Garrett says:

    Nice list, thanks. My very first album and the one that turned me into a classical guitar enthusiast and student was John Williams album of Sor’s 20 Studies as edited by Segovia. Then of course Parkening’s Bach album was The album for a long while. Williams’ record that included Handel’s Harmonious Blacksmith, Paganini’s 24 Caprice, and Sor’s Mozart Variations, And the Chaconne was tops for a long time. Segovia’s My Favorite Spanish Encores was exceptional. GSI’s Valseana by Marc Teicholz was/is amazing, stupefying even, especially to include so many vintage and rare guitars is a first and probably the last of its kind. Jason Vieaux’s Bach Works for Lute is exceptional in technique and very fine recording. I drove around with a friend one evening just listening to Jason and passed my house twice before taking a new route so as to hear the rest of the suites. Stephan Schmidt’s Bach Lute Works, Original Version, 10 String Guitar is pretty special and out of print, I believe. Rare. I also have, somewhere, Schmidt’s performance of an album of Domenico Scarlatti sonatas. Rare as well… and super fine.

    Nice to hear everyone’s fav’s and to rethink my collection. Great stuff!

  8. Edwardio says:

    Where is the wonderful Alirio Diaz?

  9. Edwardio says:

    I remember seeing Alirio perform over here in Western Australia at Winthrop Hall the University Of Western Australia in about 1974. A wonderful concert, he performed all the great works and finished with a encore arrangement of Finiculi, Finicular which”brought the house down”.

  10. Ernani says:

    My top 10, today:

    Segovia – Manuel Ponce
    Carlevaro – Plays Carlevaro
    Shin Ichi Fukuda – Tender toys (Takashi Yoshimatsu)
    Julian Bream – In concerto
    John Williams – The guitarist
    Berta Rojas – Barrios
    Jorge Caballero – Bach
    Barbosa-Lima – 12 studies of Francisco Mignone
    Maria Isabel Siewers – A Mimita (guitar Works of Maria Luisa Anido)
    Sergio Abreu – Paganini e Sor

  11. Kostas says:

    Roland Dyens must also be in any classic guitar recorder music collection.

  12. Mark Campbell says:

    I would definitely include Jason Vieaux’s Grammy award winning CD “Play”

  13. Jacques says:

    I am absolutely “d’accord” with M. Reli Suyskens. Benitez is magnificent and second to none in Piazzola, Ponce (Manuel) and Barrios who by the way was practically ignored by Ségovia.

  14. Mark says:

    Angel Romero didn’t these lists? Listen to his Bach album.

  15. Michael says:

    Thanks for this, looking up Christmas gift ideas and this article has been posted just in time 🙂

    Michael Gumley

  16. Sal says:

    One of my favorite albums is “Opera Fantasy for Guitar” by Pepe Romero. It is pure beauty and magic. It merits a place on any Top-Ten List. Listen to it and you will agree.


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