Very few classical guitarists can walk on a stage and improvise something to start a performance. But that is precisely what acclaimed French classical guitarist Roland Dyens did the couple of times I saw him perform. Improvising isn’t common amongst classical guitarists, which is one of Dyen’s unique qualities. Roland Dyens is probably one of the most sophisticated guitarists you’ve never heard of.
Dyens is a mixture of composer, arranger and performer. His compositional style combines jazz, Latin and classical influences, which combines to make some of the more technically challenging and lyrical compositions in classical guitar literature.
Born on October 19, 1955, Dyens began guitar studies at the age of nine. A few years later, he began studying with of Spanish Master guitarist Alberto Ponce and, in 1976, was awarded the Licence de Concert de l’École Normale de Musique de Paris. While studying guitar, Dyens also began studying composition with the renowned teacher, composer and conductor Désiré Dondeyne under whose guidance he was awarded the First Prize in Harmony, Counterpoint and Analysis.
Dyens has won several distinguished awards including the International Competition Città di Alessandria (Italy) and the Grand Prix du Disque de l’Académie Charles-Cros, both in honor of the major Brasilian composer Heitor Villa-Lobos. At the age of 25 he became a laureate of the Yehudi Menuhin Foundation. In 2006, Dyens was awarded the “Chitarra d’Oro 2006” for his body of compositions by the Presidency of the Città di Alessandria International Competition. A year ago, the Spanish press dubbed Dyens the “Wizard of the Guitar.”
I had the pleasure of meeting Dyens when I was studying classical guitar, just before I went to graduate school. I remember him talking about how Django Reinhardt was his hero and how he preferred composing and arranging in the morning. One of the aspects of Dyens style is how he uses all aspects of the guitar, including various percussive sounds, tapping, and the string sounds between the nut and guitar pegs.
Below is a series of YouTube videos showcasing Dyens performing his own arrangements and compositions along with a couple of other guitarists doing the same.
Libra Sonatine – III. Fuoco by Roland Dyens
Roland Dyens – Berimbau by Baden Powell; arr. by Dyens
Tango en Skaï by Roland Dyens
Saudade No. 3 by Roland Dyens; Performed by Kaori Muraji
Hommage a Villa-Lobos by Dyens; Performed by Roger Eon