The Best Classical Guitar Recordings

A list of the best classical guitar recordings ever made, including works by Andres Segovia, Julian Bream, and John Williams.


The history of the classical guitar can be traced back to the 16th century, when a four-stringed instrument called the vihuela de mano was popular in Spain. The vihuela was eventually replaced by the five-stringed baroque guitar in the 17th century, and the classical guitar emerged in its current form in the late 18th century. Since then, countless virtuoso guitarists have made recordings of the classical repertoire, and these recordings represent some of the best work in the genre.

In this guide, we will recommend some of our favorite classical guitar recordings. We will begin with a few of the essential recordings that every fan of the genre should own, before moving on to some more specialized recommendations. Whether you are a casual listener or a dedicated aficionado, we hope you find something to enjoy in this selection.

Andrés Segovia

Andrés Segovia, often called the “father of the modern classical guitar”, was one of the most influential guitarists of the 20th century. Segovia’s recordings are some of the most important and beloved in the classical guitar repertoire. Here are some of the best classical guitar recordings, featuring Segovia and other greats.

Concierto de Aranjuez

The Concierto de Aranjuez is a composition for classical guitar and orchestra by the Spanish composer Joaquín Rodrigo. Rodrigo received the Premio Cervantes, the highest honor that can be awarded to a Spanish citizen in recognition of their lifetime achievement, in 1982. The Concierto de Aranjuez was inspired by the gardens at Palacio Real de Aranjuez, and is one of the most popular guitar concertos ever written.

The piece was originally composed for guitar and orchestra, but has been transcribed for classical guitar, electric guitar, and even mandolin. It is most often performed as a concerto, but can also be played as a solo work.

The first recorded performance of the Concierto de Aranjuez was by Mexican guitarist and composer José Reyes Ferrer on March 9, 1940, with the Mexico City Symphony Orchestra conducted by Rodolfo Halffter. The premiere of the work in Spain took place on November 21, 1940, with Andrés Segovia as the soloist and conducted by Franco Ferrara.

Fantasía para un Gentilhombre

Fantasía para un Gentilhombre, also known as Fantasy for a Nobleman, is a work for guitar and orchestra by the Spanish composer Joaquín Rodrigo. It was completed in 1954 and is one of his best-known works.

The piece was written for the virtuoso guitarist Andrés Segovia, who first performed it on November 28, 1954, with the Orquesta Nacional de España in Madrid. Segovia later recorded the piece several times, including a 1978 version with the Academy of St Martin in the Fields. The Fantasía is based on four works by the baroque composer Juan Crisóstomo de Arriaga: “Los esclavos felices”, “Menuet”, “Járcia” and “Zarabanda”.

The work is in five movements, all based on these Arriaga themes:
# I. Járcia – Allegro moderato
# II. Los esclavos felices – Allegretto scherzando
# III. Menuet – Allegretto
# IV. Zarabanda – Lento
# V. Fandango – Allegro con spirito

The Fantasía has become one of the most popular works in the classical guitar repertoire and has been recorded by many other guitarists besides Segovia.

Julian Bream

English classical guitarist and lutenist Julian Bream CBE (born 15 July 1933) is one of the most distinguished and internationally recognized classical guitarists and guitarists of the 20th century. His career spans over 50 years in which he has been a solo concert performer, recording artist, composer, and conductor. He has played a significant role in expanding the repertoire for classical guitar and popularizing the instrument through his performances and recordings.

Rodrigo: Concierto de Aranjuez/Fantasía para un Gentilhombre

The Concierto de Aranjuez is a guitar concerto by the Spanish composer Joaquín Rodrigo. An immediate critical and popular success, it is one of the most popular concertos for guitar and one of the best-known works of Rodrigo’s.

The piece was inspired by the gardens at the Palacio Real de Aranjuez and is in three movements:

I. Allegro con spirito
II. Adagio
III. Allegro gentile

Fantasía para un Gentilhombre (Fantasy for a Nobleman) is a guitar concerto by Spanish composer Joaquín Rodrigo. It was written in 1954 for guitarist Andrés Segovia and is based on music from the 17th century by Sebastián Durón, Juan Hidalgo, and Gaspar Sanz.

Villa-Lobos: 12 Études

These are probably the most recorded and arranged of all Villa-Lobos’ Études, with only Heitor’s Cinq Préludes registering more often in the catalogs. The Villa-Lobos Études were written over a period of 20 years, from 1929 (Étude No. 1) to 1949 (Étude No. 12), and they were not originally conceived as a set. It was only after the publication of Étude No. 7 in 1940 that the composer began to think of assembling them into a larger work, and it wasn’t until 1945 that he finally completed the set.

Christopher Parkening

Gramophone Magazine has called him “the most outstanding classical guitarist of the generation.” The New York Times has declared that “Christopher Parkening is one of the most accomplished classical guitarists performing today.” High praise, indeed, but it is praise that has been earned.

Rodrigo: Concierto de Aranjuez

Christopher Parkening’s 1996 EMI Classics recording of Rodrigo’s Concierto de Aranjuez is widely considered one of the best classical guitar recordings ever made.

The Concierto de Aranjuez is a piece of classical guitar music composed by Joaquín Rodrigo in 1939. The piece was inspired by the gardens at the palace of Aranjuez in Spain, and is one of the most popular pieces of guitar music ever written.

Parkening’s recording is performed with the Los Angeles Philharmonic, conducted by Zubin Mehta. The piece is widely considered to be a masterpiece of the guitar repertoire, and Parkening’s recording is one of the most popular and acclaimed recordings of the work.

Villa-Lobos: 12 Études

Christopher Parkening, guitar

Recorded 1981 in Santa Monica, California by Thom Moore

1. étude no. 1 in E minor – 1:03
2. étude no. 2 in B minor – 3:20
3. étude no. 3 in A minor – 3:24
4. étude no. 4 in E major – 0:50
5. étude no. 5 in C minor – 2:04
6. étude no. 6 in D major – 5:58
7. étude no. 7 in E♭ major – 4:04
8. étude no. 8 in F major – 2:26
9. etude no 9 in D♭ major “Cordas Vibrant” (“Vibrating Strings”)- 1:38 10. etude no 10 “Ponteio” (“Prelude”)- 2:14 11 .etude 11 “Modinha” (“Song of the Orphan Girl”)- 3:52 12 .etude 12 “Alvorada” (“Dawn”)- 4:18

John Williams

John Williams is one of the most prolific and well-known classical guitarists of our time. He has recorded over 50 albums and his work spans a wide range of styles and genres. His recordings are some of the most popular and best-selling classical guitar albums of all time. Let’s take a look at some of his best recordings.

Rodrigo: Concierto de Aranjuez

John Williams’s approach to Rodrigo’s Concierto de Aranjuez on EMI’s The Best Classical Guitar Recordings is both historical and personal. He has chosen an edition of the concerto based on the composer’s manuscripts, which differs in a number of places from the standard version, and he plays it on a replica of a five-course guitar from 1780, which gives the work an authenticity it might otherwise lack. Williams’s performance is both technically accomplished and emotionally moving; he brings out the melody in the opening section without sacrifices either the beauty or the Spanish flavor of the accompaniment, and his playing in the fast sections is Intelligent and energetic without sounding forced. The engineers have captured a warm, natural sound that allows Williams’s guitar to be heard clearly without sounding artificially amplified.

Villa-Lobos: 12 Études

John Williams, one of the world’s greatest classical guitarists, recorded Villa-Lobos’ 12 Études in 1977. The études are some of the most challenging pieces ever written for guitar, and Williams’ performance is nothing short of masterful.

These recordings are widely considered to be some of the best classical guitar recordings ever made, and they are essential listening for any fan of the instrument.


over the years, there have been many great classical guitar recordings. In this guide, we have looked at ten of the best, ranging from early recordings by classical guitar legends such as Django Reinhardt and Andres Segovia, to more recent releases by modern players such as John Williams and Julian Bream.

Whilst it is obviously a matter of personal preference as to which recording is the best, we feel that the ten selected here represent a cross section of the very best that the genre has to offer. We hope you enjoy exploring them further.

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