Years Performed: 1991, 1994
Japanese guitarist Kazuhito Yamashita has been compared to a one-man band. He doesn't play more than one instrument at a time, and he doesn't strap drums and cymbals to his back, but he has managed to do the seemingly impossible: successfully arrange full-scale symphonic music for the classical guitar. Mussorgsky's Pictures at an Exhibition, Stravinsky's Firebird Suite, and even Dvorak's "New World" Symphony have been put through Yamashita's musical strainer to emerge as absurdly difficult, yet extremely compelling items for solo guitar. Yamashita is, however, not a gimmick-artist: his real musical home is in the standard guitar repertoire, which he plays with a technical skill and stylistic assuredness that have few equals in the guitar world.
Kazuhito Yamashita was born in 1961 in the city of Nagasaki. In 1976 he won the All-Japan Guitar Competition, and in 1977 he took the top prizes of the Ramirez Competition in Spain, the Alessandria competition in Italy, and the Concours International de Guitare in Paris. He was, understandably, the talk of the musical town, and successful concert appearances in the world's musical capitals soon followed. He has a special affinity for the (plentiful) guitar music of Fernando Sor, the full body of which he has recorded. His arrangements of non-guitar works for solo guitar have not always earned him the love of the musical establishment: performances of such transcriptions as the above orchestral items usually go hand-in-hand with a certain amount of controversy, and the debate about the merit of such over-the-top -- some would call it garish -- display continues unabated. Yamashita has not involved himself much in the debate, however, and he continues to prove himself one of the most fascinating performers of his day.