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Stewart French (Guitar)

Born: April 28, 1981 - Luton, England


The English guitarist, Stewart French, was born in Luton and raised in Harpenden by his accountant father and schoolteacher mother. He was state-educated at St. George’s School (Harpenden) and Dame Alice Owen’s School (Potter’s Bar). While he showed an interest in guitar as a hobby, French’s great ambition was to study pure mathematics, something he went on to do at the University of Cambridge (MA, 2003).

During his time at Cambridge Stewart French developed a passion for music. French recalls “I hadn’t had much interest in classical music until then and had never heard choral music before. I was spellbound by the college choir; it was magical”. He became increasingly active in the college’s musical life, performing his guitar arrangements in college concerts and working on the compositions of his new friend Joseph Finlay. He soon became good friends with the Director of Music Timothy Brown and composer John Rutter, resulting in John Rutter’s first piece for guitar and choir. He also formed a friendship with Italian guitar virtuoso Aniello Desiderio following “such a deeply moving concert that I felt I could spend a lifetime trying to understand it”, visiting him a number of times to study musical interpretation.

Stewart French graduated and progressed to the first year of the Cambridge PhD course in mathematics. But after learning about the Royal Academy of Music through a chance meeting with the then student guitarist Xue-Fei Yang, he decided to apply. Not being able to afford to record a demo CD he turned his attention to self-studying record production. Within a few months he was offered a place to study with Michael Lewin at the Royal Academy of Music in London.

Moving to London, Stewart French studied as a postgraduate at the Royal Academy of Music with contemporaries Antonis Hatzinikoloau, Christopher Bundhen and Milos Karadaglic. In the summer of his first year, French recorded John Rutter’s Shadows for baritone and guitar for Naxos. French recalls:

It was a hilarious chain of events, looking back. I mean, I was having a very hard time financially, having taken a debt and a job to cover my first year and then not managing to get a RAM bursary for my second year. So the only way I could think of to stay afloat was through this crazy idea to blitz-study investment banking to try and get a summer internship… which worked out would you believe, but meant working 90 hour weeks all summer. I’m not exaggerating. And then the Naxos thing came up, which of course I absolutely wanted to do and was just before my start date. But then, the week of the recording, Jeremy suffered an accident on stage in an opera by some large prop falling on his head. So the whole thing got postponed to the middle of my internship. I was literally practicing between 2 and 3am in the office. You should have seen us recording: one of us suffering chronic exhaustion, the other concussed!”

Sensing that he needed to dedicate more time to his studies, French accepted a full-time job offer from Lazard for after his graduation (2006), freeing him up to dedicate a year to developing his technique. At the end of the year, French received the DipRAM with the top postgraduate guitar mark in his year.


Following a period working in Mergers & Acquisitions, Stewart French won the Deutsche Bank Pyramid Award competition for arts businesses to create a recording service, which he named Draft. With his partner being offered a place to study in Basel, the two moved to Tuscany, where French used a series of his own recording projects and those of other young professionals to mathematically optimise a collection of recording and production techniques used in classical music. He soon struck up friendships with veteran producer Andrew Keener and ex-Decca balance engineer Simon Eadon, and started to work with them on albums for some of the biggest names in the industry, including Julian Lloyd Webber, John Williams, the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, Manchester Camerata and the Halle. As a guitarist he returned to new composition and arranging, recording "Facets" (music by Joseph Finlay), “The Brahms Guitar” (Johannes Brahms transcriptions by S. French), "Walton Unwound" (music by William Walton), "It’s About Time" (music by Joseph Finlay) and "Chaconne" (music by J.S. Bach.

Stewart French’s first major professional guitar collaboration was with composer Tarik O’Regan on Harmonia Mundi USA’s Acallam na Senorach (2011), an hour long work for choir and guitar which included three solo guitar interludes. The Grammy nominated O’Regan had previously taught Finlay at Cambridge and had come across French’s work while planning a project with Paul Hillier and the National Chamber Choir of Ireland. Moving back to London, French worked with O’Regan on his “inspired piece” (Gramophone) whose “strong sense of antiquity comes from the Arab and Persian-influenced writing for guitar, beguilingly interpreted by Stewart French” (BBC Review). During the launch tour of the USA and Ireland with the choir in 2011, O’Regan included the guitar in his first opera, Heart of Darkness, which French performed with Chroma in a run of four performances at the Royal Opera House in Covent Garden.

During 2012-2013 Stewart French made his orchestral debut with five performances of Rodrigo’s Concierto de Aranjuez with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra. In 2013 his digital EP of O’Regan’s Eminent Domains for solo guitar, adapted by French for duo with cajon, reached no. 12 in the iTunes classical charts; the piece was broadcast live on BBC Radio 3’s Boxing Day morning show. French also joined ‘Tetra’ - a guitar quartet which “ranks amongst the very best in the world” (Gramophone) - recording its 25 year anniversary CD which includes French’s arrangement of L.v. Beethoven’s Sonata Op. 101 for guitar quartet.

Stewart French continues to believe in the value of theory as the great leveller, providing access and opportunity to all. He is currently writing up two projects in his free time: an analytic theory of recording aesthetics and a new form of guitar notation for use in education.

Asylum Arts 2013 [21]

Asylum Arts 2013 [22]

In rehearsal with the RPO - Dartford, November 2012 [233]

Waiting to rehearse - Dartford, November 2012 [244]

More Photos

Source: Stewart French Website; The Artist (January 2014); Photos 22-24 By Luca Sage
Contributed by Aryeh Oron (July 2008, January 2014)

Stewart French: Short Biography | Recordings of Instrumental Works | Videos

Links to other Sites

Stewart French (Draft Records - Official Website)

Draft Online (Official Website)
Stewart Franch Press Kit on Flickr

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Last update: ýFebruary 3, 2014 ý22:21:33