Six of the best female classical guitarists

From Sharon Isbin to Xuefei Yang, we name some of the women making waves in the classical guitar world

Guitarist Xuefei Yang

Sharon Isbin (b.1956)

Sharon Isbin is one of a handful of classical guitarists of the post-Andrés Segovia age who have crossed into something approaching celebrity. That is what happens when you’ve performed alongside Sting, Joan Baez and Mark O’Connor; have founded the Juilliard School’s guitar department; and have commissioned concert works from the likes of John Corigliano, Aaron Jay Kernis, Joan Tower and Christopher Rouse.

Advertisement

And that doesn’t even scratch the surface of Isbin’s reach into popular culture, which includes a cameo in the pioneering Showtime series The L Word and a performance in the White House before Barack and Michelle Obama. Isbin’s desire to expand the guitar repertoire has sparked collaborations with artists from Brazil, China, Colombia, Spain, the UK and recently India. And though she could live comfortably on performances of Rodrigo’s Concierto de Aranjuez and a handful of Spanish miniatures, she has devoted much of her career to inspiring (and cajoling) composers to write concertos that speak to her interests.

Ida Presti (1924-67)

French-Sicilian guitarist Ida Presti was considered ‘an outstanding musician…with a sound that was instantly beautiful.’ Although many of her recordings were with her husband, Alexandre Lagoya, head to The Art of Ida Presti, her finest solo album. Liona Boyd is known for her performance of classical styles from around the world. Her 1979 album The First Lady of the Guitar shows the Canadian star at her peak.

Xuefei Yang (b.1977)

China’s first internationally recognised guitarist, Xuefei Yang is celebrated for her resonant sound and her commitment to collaboration. In their album Songs from our Ancestors, Yang and tenor Ian Bostridge explore music from across the ages. Milonga Del Angel, a recording of South American and Spanish music featuring Yang and violinist Mengla Huang, is also worth a listen.

Ana Vidović (b.1980)

Croatian-born Ana Vidović now lives in the US and tours around the world. Hear the young Vidović in Naxos’s Laureate Series for guitar.

Advertisement

Irina Kulikova (b.1982)

Recovering from an injury when she was 19, Irina Kulikova developed an interest in physical and spiritual well-being which she then reflected in her performances. Her Naxos album Reminiscences of Russia is brilliantly played and wonderfully calming.