It is quite a daunting task to assess the performance of someone like John Williams. Certainly one of the finest and most famous living classical guitarists in the world, he seems something of a colossus of the instrument. Yet the manner he exuded as he entered the stage of St. George’s was of understated familiarity. The venue has such a wonderful acoustic and provides quite a different experience from most classical concert venues: one that feels very intimate, regardless of seating position, allowing the performer’s character to come through vividly.

We got even better than that, with Williams treating the audience to several insightful and amusing chats throughout the evening. The programme began with five preludes from Villa-Lobos, each of which – explained Williams – representing a different aspect of Brazilian life. Glancing down at the programme I was surprised to learn that the guitarist is on the cusp of his seventies. You certainly wouldn’t have known it from seeing the incredible dexterity and speed in his delivery of the second prelude, while ethereal melodies using only harmonics in the fourth generated murmur of awe from the audience.

Perhaps not quite so easy on the untrained ear as the Villa-Lobos, the next set of pieces came from the Cuban Leo Brouwer: El Decameron Negro. Moving from the mysterious to the aesthetic in the first piece, El Arpa del Guerrero (“The Warrior’s Harp”), made the music all the more potently moving, while the second exhibited some wonderful echo-like characteristics, perfectly fitting its title: La Huida de los Amantes por el Valle de los Ecos (“The Flight of the Lovers through the Valley of Echoes”).The third and final piece of the set displayed an incredible balance between mellow, almost Miles Davis-like qualities in the A section, and phenomenal virtuosity in the B section.

After the interval, the programme recommenced with a light-hearted piece – and surely an inspiration for many classic Nintendo game themes, O Bia – from the Cameroonian composer, and great friend of Williams’, Francis Bebey. We were then treated to a set of three pieces by Williams’ himself, but – as he informed us – From a Bird directly quoted a birdsong he’d heard “just south of Melbourne, about thirty years ago.” I found the third piece the most enjoyable, though this had moved far from the original birdsong, as it exhibited a great variety of moods and atmospheres, from the moving and mellow to the dark and mysterious, with a subtle hint of David Bowie’s Life on Mars (though that’s merely my opinion!). The final of his works came in the form of a tribute to Brouwer. Hello Francis was, as promised, a happy piece for a happy person, employing the same Makossa rhythm as O Bia, but there was still a very powerful underlying feeling of grief for the devotee.

I was half expecting to have very little to write about in a concert made up entirely of solo guitar music, but I had to actually stop myself to simply enjoy the music. After captivating the audience for an hour and a half, Williams finished with a flourish of beautiful pieces by the Paraguayan something-of-a-rockstar-back-in-the-day composer, Agustín Barrios Mangoré. The final piece, Sueño en la Floresta (“Dream in the Forest”) I feel deserves specific comment as it seemed to encapsulate everything that was great about Williams’ performances throughout the night. Not only was it very beautiful, it also perfectly exemplified his incredible ability to produce very different tone qualities for different voices simultaneously. It was pantheon to the guitar and Williams’ mastery of it.

This was an exceptional solo performance from a true “ambassador of the guitar”.