In the 13 years since John Williams last played locally, a new generation of guitarists has emerged, guitarists who seldom miss a shift or fumble a tremolo.
But, as it quickly became apparent Saturday night at the first of two sold-out recitals at Ambassador Auditorium, Williams has raised the technical ante himself. His speed and accuracy remain equal to any challenge, while his unflappable control now extends to every nuance of phrasing and timbre.
Williams had to put his expressive power to full use in a long Barrios set. Some bass-heavy tambor passages aside, this was playing on a level few other guitarists can approach. Williams' marvelously slinky glissandos and liquid rubato captured the popular elements perfectly.
Only one repertory novelty adorned the program, Yuquijiro Yocoh's Variations on the Japanese folk song "Sakura." These call on the full gamut of the guitar's coloristic possibilities in a setting of distinctly Oriental character.
Williams' unusually broad dynamic range came to the fore in his arrangements of three Albeniz pieces. The manifold virtues of his playing were often put to anachronistic uses in pieces by Praetorius and Bach's Partita in E, BWV 1006a. Three encores and standing ovations capped the evening.