The adagio from the Concierto de Aranjuez (1939) by Joaquín Rodrigo must be one of the most archetypical guitar concerts there are. If you play the first three guitar notes of the adagio, many people will know they have heard it somewhere, if perhaps not quite sure where. Or at least recognize it as a kind of template for Spanish guitar music.
It’s only three notes, two of which are the same ones by the way, but played with the right timing it immediately sounds very Spanish. Rhythm and timing often define musical styles more so than melody and harmony anyway.
Underneath you’ll find two performances of it. It has been played by scores of classical guitar players, and John Williams is one of the very best of them:
However, this classical Spanish guitar music is so heavily based in flamenco that to me it actually sounds better when played by a real flamenco player.
Like Paco de Lucia.
Mind you, Paco de Lucia didn’t read notes, so he must have figured it out and memorized it by ear:
Paco de Lucia’s tone is sharper, more aggressive. Definitely not your music college polished tone (which in itself has its charms, mind you). And that is the quintessential Spanish guitar tone, I feel. No disrespect meant to John Williams, of course. The man has a musical and technical flexibility matched by only very few, if anyone. But with this particular piece, I prefer the rawness of flamenco to classical refinement.
Still, John Williams sounds brilliant as well, and he, more than many others, does sound and appears like someone who really plays the music, as opposed to be reproducing stuff from music scores.