Described by John Williams as “a poet of the guitar”, the London-based Bulgarian classical guitarist Pavel Ralev is establishing a strong presence on the international concert platform. In 2023, he was conferred as an Associate of the Royal Academy of Music, London, in recognition of his “significant contribution” to the music profession. Pavel made his Wigmore Hall debut in November 2023, under the auspices of the Julian Bream Trust (“an unforgettable performance”, Gendai Guitar Magazine).

Having won the Adelaide International Guitar Competition in 2021, Pavel toured Australia in 2022, and is returning for his second concert tour in May 2024, which includes appearances at the Canberra International Music Festival, Queensland Conservatorium (Brisbane), Tempo Rubato in Melbourne, University of Western Australia (Perth), Wayville House (Adelaide) and a benefit concert for Ukrainian war refugees at The Hedberg (Hobart, Tasmania), supported by the United Nations. In this season’s programme, titled On Repeat, Pavel explores the effects of repetition and drones on human emotion and the perception of time through the music of Ant Law, J.S. Bach, Carlo Domeniconi and Steve Reich.

As a strong advocate of new music, composers as diverse as David Matthews, Jason Noghani and jazz guitarist Ant Law have dedicated works to Pavel, and he has also premièred music by Louise Drewett and Kiril Boshikyov. Pavel also expands the repertoire through his transcriptions of works by J.S. Bach, Olivier Messiaen, Terry Riley, Arvo Pärt for the solo classical guitar. Pavel’s acoustic version of Steve Reich’s Electric Counterpoint (the first since 1993), “seems to make possible this combination of clarity and extremely rich ringing overtone texture”, noted the composer, who also praised it as an “excellent recording”. Pavel’s transcription and performance of Bach’s Second Violin Partita won him the Bach Prize at the 2020 Koblenz International Guitar Competition in Germany.

In 2019–2020, Pavel was a EuroStrings Artist and participated in the International Guitar Foundation’s Young Artists Platform. He has performed and taught at a number of classical guitar festivals in Europe and appeared at the London Guitar Festival and International Guitar Summit held at King’s Place, London. He regularly returns to Bulgaria to perform at various music festivals, most recently Misho’s Musical Mindscapes, which celebrates the life and work of composer Mihail Goleminov. Pavel also gives masterclasses at the National School of Music and Dance Arts, and the Academy for Music, Dance and Fine Arts in Plovdiv.

Pavel studied at the Royal Academy of Music, London with Michael Lewin, David Russell and Fabio Zanon, and completed a Master of Music degree at the University of Surrey under Stephen Goss and Milton Mermikides. Among his teachers and mentors are John Williams, Aniello Desiderio and George Vassilev. His parents, who both play popular music on the guitar, introduced him to the instrument; his first classical guitar teacher was Ekaterina Vaseva-Ikonomova. Before moving to the UK, Pavel studied at the National School for Music and Dance Arts, Plovdiv with Milena and Valentin Valtchev.

Pavel plays guitars by Jim Redgate, Stephen Eden and Simon Ambridge, all strung with Savarez.

“...one of the outstanding guitarists of his generation.”Michael Lewin

“He is a poet on the guitar. He is a very poetic, beautiful player, with an amazing technique; the combination of both is very unusual.”John Williams, in Gendai Guitar Magazine

“Pavel is a poet, the world needs more people like him.”Aniello Desiderio

“Pavel Ralev won the respect of his audience very quickly… maintaining virtuosic speeds while crafting highly expressive phrasing and interpretation. … he gave an unforgettable performance.”Thérèse Wassily Saba, Gendai Guitar Magazine

“excellent recording. Bravo!”Steve Reich on Pavel Ralev’s Electric Counterpoint

“His display of delicate, bravura playing well deserved his standing ovation. I’m sure it will live in his mind for some while. But it will also live in the minds of those of us lucky to have been there.”Documentary film-maker Tony Palmer