John Griffiths plays medieval and renaissance lutes, vihuela, baroque and 19th-century guitars. He plays a broad repertoire of music for these instruments but has a specialist interest in the music of Spain and Italy that is connected to his work as a researcher. He is particularly known as one of the leading researchers of vihuela music of our time. He has performed widely in Australia, Europe, the USA and South America, both as a soloist and ensemble player, especially with La Romanesca which he co-founded in 1978. His activities included performances and radio and television broadcast in Argentina, Australia, Chile, Cuba, England, France, Germany, Greece, Hong Kong, Italy, Portugal, Spain and the USA.
Solo programs are strongly based on the areas of his own research and often form part of his research laboratory as he explores and rediscovers lost and forgotten music and composers. Recent programs have explored rare areas of the vihuela repertory, and the links between improvised and composed lute music, of the music of cities and courts. He has been active in the rediscovery of the Neapolitan lute repertory and has been bringing it to public attention in his recent performance projects and publications together with Dinko Fabris. Recently he has been investigating the music of the earliest published lutenist, Francesco Spinacino.
Recent work has been collaborating with luthier Ian Watchorn on vihuelas that incorporate new historical research, and on constructing concert programs that underscore the continuity between the vihuela and the guitar rather than seeing the vihuela and baroque guitar as different instruments.
He has also taught on a regular basis at summer schools and specialist courses such as the Festival internacional de la guitarra (Córdoba, Spain) and the Curso internacional de música antigua de Daroca (Spain). In 2011, toured of Australia and New Zealand with guitar virtuoso Ricardo Gallén in a series of recitals and masterclasses.
"El australiano John Griffiths, una autoridad no sólo en la música vihuelística sino en toda la cultura del Renacimiento español, planteó un interesantísimo programa, que recogió los contactos entre España e Italia en el XVI. Su visión de esta música es personalísima, como mostró en la famosa Fantasía X de Mudarra, que tocó con extasiante lentitud, recreándose en los silencios y flexibilizando las líneas sin empacho.” The Australian John Griffiths, an authority not only regarding the music of the vihuela but in everything to do with the culture of Renaissance Spain, presented a most interesting programme that drew together the contacts between Spain and Italy in the sixteenth century. His vision of this music is extraordinarily personal, as he showed in his version of the famous Fantasia X of Mudarra, which he played with entrancing slowness, taking delight in the silences and giving flexibility to the lines without overdoing it. Diario de Sevilla (October 2010)
“THE INTIMATE ART OF JOHN GRIFFITHS. His prestige as a musicologist and the value of his vihuela and baroque guitar performances have converted him into an essential reference point in the international panorama of early music... Last Friday’s recital in the Gran Teatro offered us once again the excellences of a highly refined and select performance art. Three fantasias by Luis Milán opened a program filled with exquisiteness and the greatest intimacy...” Diario de Córdoba, Córdoba, Spain
“John Griffiths, excellent performer of the sixteenth-century vihuelists. The Australian artist offered a most interesting programme throughout which he demonstrated his knowledge of the secrets of vihuela interpretation, playing with sensitivity, delicacy, precision, and great musicality. For those moments we were transported to a previous age and we were able to experience, thanks to the work of this young Australian from the University of Melbourne, something of the musical atmosphere of Valladolid in the 16th century. The audience listened with unusual interest to the performance and commentry of the artist whom they rewarded with an enthusiatic and prolonged ovation.” Norte de Castilla, Valladolid
“John Griffiths played...not only with great vitality but with what seemed to me to be a complete mastery of the idiom.” The Herald, Melbourne
“If anyone is going to fill out the bare bones that constitute medieval manuscripts, then it ought to be a musician with Mr. Griffiths’ discernment and background.” The Age, Melbourne