The classical guitar world has never been more international than it is today. Fantastic players are coming out of every continent (OK, except Antarctica), and there are hundreds of first-rate schools and programs all over that guitarists can choose from. The most common route to building success for young guitarists is still through the many large and small guitar competitions spanning the globe, but increasingly, YouTube and other online platforms have become important vehicles for exposure, as well. Below is a woefully short list of ten top classical guitar virtuosos—all in their 20s or early 30s—originally from ten different countries. We’ve tried to present plenty of variety in the pieces, so you’ll find works stretching from the Baroque era to the 21st century.
Marko Topchii (Ukraine)
The passionate Topchii has probably won or placed high in more competitions than any player of his generation. Educated in Kyiv and the San Francisco Conservatory of Music, he has highly adventurous tastes in repertoire, skewing a bit towards challenging modern works. Watch him play the great contemporary Cuban composer Leo Brower’s “Variations on a Theme of Django Reinhardt.”
Stephanie Jones (Australia)
Based in Germany for a number of years as she completes her guitar studies, Jones is a member of that country’s superb Weimar Guitar Quartet, is renowned as a chamber player, and has released three solo albums, including Colours of Spain. Watch her perform Toru Takemitsu’s beautiful arrangement of the Beatles’ “Yesterday.”
Alec Holcomb (USA)
The Tennessee-born Holcomb studied guitar with a succession of modern masters, including Andrew Zohn, David Starobin, Jason Vieaux, Judicaël Perroy, and David Tanenbaum. His 2019 debut album consisted of his own thoughtful arrangements of works by Spanish composer Isaac Albéniz (1860–1909), including the complete Suite Española No. 1 and the multi-part suite España. Watch his spectacular version of the famously challenging “Grande Ouverture, Op. 61” by the early 19th century Italian guitarist/composer Mauro Giuliani.
Laura Snowden (England)
A fine recitalist, composer, and teacher who was championed by the late Julian Bream and studied at the Royal Academy of Music, Snowden has taught and performed around the world, including in many orchestral settings. She is also a member of the long-standing folk group Tir Eloas. Watch Snowden perform her own work called “Home,” followed by her spoken recollections of Bream.
An Tran (Vietnam)
Though he can and does play a wide variety of pieces from every era, Tran has also brought exotic musical colors from his homeland to his work, especially on his wondrous album Stay My Beloved (Vietnamese Guitar Music). His next album is going to be devoted to the great 19th century French guitarist/composer Napoleon Coste. Watch Tran play the Vietnamese folk song “Stay My Beloved.”
Andrzej Grygier (Poland)
Already lauded for winning more than 20 competitions, mainly in Europe, Grygier made waves on this side of the Atlantic when, in September 2022, he won the inaugural Baltimore International Guitar Competition and its astounding $35,000 first prize. In recent times he’s been studying with the greatly admired Polish guitarist/teacher Lukasz Kuropaczewski. Watch Grygier play “Etude No. 7” by the brilliant Brazilian composer Heitor Villa-Lobos (1887–1959).
Tengyue (TY) Zhang (China)
A competition beast, this former child prodigy won the prestigious Guitar Foundation of America International Concert Artist Competition in 2017, as well as many others around the world. He is also a successful and much-sought-after teacher. His eclectic Naxos Guitar Recital album came out in 2018. Watch him play his own transcription of “Keyboard Sonata No. 24” by early 18th century Portuguese composer Carlos Seixas, a contemporary of Bach and Scarlatti.
Andrea González Caballero (Spain)
The daughter of a guitarist, she played her first solo concert at age 11, and later studied with such notables as Joachín Clerch and Manuel Barrueco. She has won more than 20 international prizes and has also done much teaching herself. Her most recent album is a splendid duo project with flutist Amalia Tortajada Zanón called Identidade. Watch Caballero play a classic Spanish piece by Albéniz, “Sevilla.”
Raphaël Feuillâtre (France)
The winner of the 2018 GFA ICAC and a number of other European contents, the East Africa-born and Brittany-raised Feuillâtre has broad tastes and has performed (and sometimes arranged) works stretching from the Baroque era to the present day. He has released two albums and recently signed to make his third for the renowned Deutsche Grammophon label. Watch him perform the wonderful “Mazurka Apposianta” by the great Paraguayan guitarist/composer Agustín Barrios (1885–1944).
Cristina Galietto (Italy)
Still only 22, Naples native Galietto has already been playing concerts for a decade and has won prizes in numerous competitions in Italy and around Europe. Her excellent 2022 release, Avant l’aube, shows her impressive range as an interpreter of different styles. Watch her perform “Tarantella, op. 87a” a demanding piece by Italian composer Mario Castelnuovo-Tedesco (1895–1968).