In the classical music world the ladies comprise a significant number of the professional musicians out there. Maybe not at the conductor’s level of course, but among pianists and string players their numbers are very notable and noticeable. Up until very recently that was not the case among the Classical Guitarists. Considering that there were not to many Classical Guitarists around in the first half of the 20th century that is understandable. The first significant female guitarist I became aware of is Ida Presti (1924-1967) and her performances with Alexander LaGoya in the Duo Presti-Lagoya. As a duo they set the standard at a pretty high level. When Julian Bream and John Williams recorded their duos around in the 1970s they were following in the footsteps of Ida Presti and Alexander LaGoya. Also in the 1970’s the Canadian Liona Boyd came to prominence and, although a very competent performer I always found her to be a bit of a musical light weight – “she played like a girl”. That rather derogatory phrase took on a whole new meaning when the American guitarist Sharon Isbin also launched her career in the late 1970’s. She had the looks and demeanor of a New York fashion model and a guitar technique that literally over shadowed all her male and female peers. She was no musical light weight (just check her recording of the Bach Lute Suites) and if what she was doing, “playing like a girl”, then God bless us all with the ability and power to “play like a girl”. In the late 1980s the Brazilian Badi Assad emerged on the scene with an original approach to Classical Guitar. Although raised within a strong classical tradition, her two brothers are a famous Classical Guitar duo, her approach has been more folkloric and Brazilian. Badi is also blessed with extraordinary good looks and marvelous technique. It seems that stunning good looks is a prerequisite for female classical guitarists. After cruising YouTube one would think that is definitely the case (is that being sexist?). The ladies on YouTube, Leonara Spangbenger, Julia Lange, Tatyana Ryzhkoua and Ana Vidovic, just to mention a few, are all beautiful young women who do not “play like a girl”.
The latest female guitarist to come to my attention is Smoro Gregoriadou. This Greek lady is virtually re-inventing the guitar. She plays a wide range of interesting classical guitars that include, double course instruments, high strung instruments, instruments with scalloped finger boards (a’ la John McLaughlin), guitars with odd shapes and styles. This lady is absolutely brilliant. I have yet to hear another classical guitarist that is more spell binding in performance. Check the YouTube selections below. I find her technique and musicality absolutely astounding
Cueva Del Gato is a composition by the famous flamenco guitarist Paco De Lucia. She literally outshines the original. I believe the instrument is tuned higher to an A (equivalent to playing with a capo at the 5th fret) and also note the scalloped fingerboard).