Yamashita, Kazuhito

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Kazuhito Yamashita

Classical guitarist

For the Record

Selected transcriptions

Selected discography


Japans Kazuhito Yamashita hasmade a career of annexing orchestral classics to his kingdom of the guitar, according to Jeff Magee in the Ann Arbor News. The classical guitarist transcribes symphonies and other classical pieces, usually played by many varied instruments together, so that he and others can play them on the guitar. He has been compared to revolutionary classical guitarist Andres Segovia, and is acclaimed by most serious music critics, though Jim Ferguson of Guitar Player admitted that some experts consider Yamashita an eccentric who attempts tasks too large for his ability. In addition to his transcription talents, his actual playing has also won raves from the critics; for instance, reviewer Michael Wright labeled Yamashitas technique with the instrument brilliant and flawless in Audio.

Yamashita showed his genius early, and entered international competitions while an adolescent. While still in his teens he gained worldwide attention by winning three of them; one in Spain, one in Italy, and another in Paris, France. Afterwards he gave many concerts in his native Japan, and by 1978, when he was about seventeen years old, he was ready to make his first professional European appearance. Music apparently runs in the Yamashita family; his sister Naoko is also a classical guitarist, and has recorded with him.

Yamashitas transcription credits include J. S. Bachs First Sonata for Unaccompanied Violin, Dvoraks New World Symphony, Rimsky-Korsakovs Scheherazade, Stravinskys Firebird Suite, and Mussorgskys Pictures at an Exhibition. The last was lauded as almost legendary by Ferguson, who also had praise for Yamashitas recordings Guitar Concertos: Vivaldi, Carulli, Giuliani and Music of Spain, though he felt the material on both of these albums was somewhat tame for Yamashita. A musician of his exceptional abilities is best showcased with exceptional material, he concluded. Wright disagreed, saying that Guitar Concertos is stunningly vital. Further, Walter F. Grueninger, reviewing the album in Consumers Research Magazine, declared his amazement at Yamashitas virtuosity and range of expression in the work.

As for Yamashitas transcription of Rimsky-Korsakovs Scheherazade, Tom Mulhern of Guitar Player hailed it as dynamic and expansive. Yamashita chose to record this work with his sister Naoko; together, according to Mulhern, the Yamashitas lived up to the greatest possibilities inherent in the performance of classical guitar duets. The album with Scheherazade also included the Petite Suite by Claude Debussy, played with striking grace and precision in Mulhems opinion, and four short pieces listed together under the title of Francaix Divertissement.

Stravinskys Firebird Suite is rendered by Yamashita as a fascinating work filled with a broad range of textures and timbres, Ferguson claimed in another Guitar Player review. The critic also pointed out the skillful way that Yamashita tackled the difficulties of making such a complex work manageable for the guitar. With Firebird Suite Yamashita also recorded his famed interpretation of Dvoraks Ninth Symphony also known as the New World Symphonywhich Ferguson gleefully proclaimed a relentless display of impossible guitar work.

Yamashita has performed, among other works, his transcription of J. S. Bachs First Sonata for Unaccompanied Violin in the United States. But besides devoting himself to the older classical composers and being, as Ferguson asserted, the only classical guitarist who produces transcriptions of full symphonic works, Yamashita also champions new music, according to Magee. One of the modern composers he has promoted is the Japanese composer Toru Takemitsu, whose Folios I, II, and III he performed at a 1989 concert in Ann Arbor, Michigan.

For the Record

Born c. 1961 in Japan.

Classical guitarist, transcribes classical works for guitar; began performing in his teens; recording artist and transcriptionist

Awards: Won three international competitions as a teenager.

Addresses: Record company RCA Records, 6363 Sunset Boulevard, Los Angeles, CA 90028.

Selected transcriptions

Bachs Sonata No. 1 for Unaccompanied Violin.

Dvoraks New World Symphony.

Mussorgskys Pictures at an Exhibition.

Rimsky-Korsakovs Scheherazade.

Stravinskys Firebird Suite.

Selected discography

Music of Spain, RCA, c. 1987.

Guitar Concertos: Vivaldi, Carulli, Giuliani, RCA, c. 1987.

(With Naoko Yamashita) Rimsky-Korsakov: Scheherazade/Debussy: Petite Suite, RCA, c. 1988.

DvorakSymphony No. 9 (From the New World)/Stravinsky The Firebird Suite, RCA, c. 1989.


Ann Arbor News, November 5, 1989.

Audio, January 1988.

Consumers Research Magazine, April 1988.

Guitar Player, June 1987; June 1988; July 1989.

Elizabeth Thomas