Ben Salfield

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English lutenist Ben Salfield warming up before a concert at the Nordhorn Festival, Germany, in 2015.

Benjamin Dieter Salfield (born 1971) is an English lutenist, composer, teacher and promoter.

Early life[edit]

Ben Salfield was born in Barton-under-Needwood, Staffordshire, UK. His father, a German Jewish refugee, was children's psychiatrist Dr. Derek "Dieter" Salfield (1915-2006);[1] his mother, a home-maker, Sandra, is still alive (b. 1942). Of his siblings, the best-known is Jon (b. 1973) who, as well as an international flamenco guitarist (the two brothers have performed together internationally in Poland and Germany) is also head coach of the Great Britain sabre team.[2]

Salfield's family settled in Cornwall, UK, when he was 9 years old, and he has lived there ever since. He began playing lute at 13 with Ian Thomson at Truro Guitar Studios. When his teacher moved away, he was mainly self-taught. His concert début was in December 1988 at St Ives Parish Church of St Ia, and shortly after he performed for the Lute Society at the Artworkers Guild, Queens Square, London. His first international recital was at the Meschede Abteikonzerte,Cologne, Germany, in 1993, and his first full international tour – in the Czech Republic – took place three years later.

Media recognition[edit]

Salfield received his first newspaper review in August 1989, for a performance at Truro Cathedral Chapter House. Headed "Performance of Real Perfection", the review compared him favourably to Julian Bream.[3] Internationally, newspapers referred to him in complimentary terms, especially in Italy,[4] Poland[5] and Sweden;[6] and in the UK, guitarist Nicola Hall described him in glowing terms on BBC radio as "like some modern-day Paganini".[7] Some years later Dutch reviewer David van der Hof reprised her description, calling Ben Salfield "Cornwall's Paganini", and remarking that "it is hard to put into words exactly just how dominating a personality he is".[8] More recently, the world's oldest magazine for fretted instruments, BMG,[9] said about Ben Salfield: "there can be few rivals, if any, to his explosive talent";[10] while Cornwall Today magazine remarked on his "huge international following".[11]

Television, promotions and composition[edit]

Salfield has appeared on television and radio, including on BBC World Television who included his duo's music on a DVD.[12] He has founded and directed concert series and festivals including the Tolmen International Guitar Symposium, Constantine) (2003-2010) among them, earning critical recognition.[13] Additionally, he has run series on behalf of other organisations, including lunchtime concerts for the Hall For Cornwall, and co-directed, with his brother Jon, the earliest music sessions at the Eden Project. He is currently co-manager of Kernow Concerts and the Director of the Hellys International Guitar Festival.[14]

He has composed music for organisations and individuals, and in December 2012 his guitar suite for Andrea Dieci, "5-4-10", was published in Poland[15][16]


  • "Shadoworld... and Other Tales" (1992) [PM Sound] {deleted}
  • "Live... on Home Ground" (1994) [PM Sound] {deleted}
  • "10 Years of Luting..." (1999) [Red C]
  • "Fantasie" (2002) [Red C]


Ben Salfield's first music publication was one of his own suites, written for the Italian guitarist Andrea Dieci, in 2012. In 2014 He signed with UK publishers Peacock Press. In January 2017 he announced that he was parting company with them in the summer, and had already signed with Bergmann Edition, the Danish publisher.[17]

  • 5-4-10 Five Preludes For Andrea Dieci by Ben Salfield. Instrument: classical guitar. Published: 2012, Modran (Poland).
  • Fugue BWV 1000 by J.S. Bach. Instrument: 10-course renaissance lute. Published: 2014, Peacock Press (UK).
  • Selected Solo Lute Works by S.L. Weiss. Instrument: 10-course renaissance lute. Published: 2014, Peacock Press (UK).
  • A Collection of Renaissance Solos with New Divisions. Instrument: 6-course renaissance lute or guitar. Published: 2014, Peacock Press (UK).
  • John Dowland: Complete Solo Galliards. Instrument: 6-course+ renaissance lute or guitar. Published: 2015, Peacock Press (UK).
  • Suite BWV 997 by J.S. Bach. Instrument: 10-course renaissance lute. Published: 2014, Peacock Press (UK).
  • Prelude Fugue & Allegro BWV 998 by J.S Bach. Instrument: 10-course renaissance lute. Published: 2014, Peacock Press (UK).
  • Concerto in D by A.Vivaldi. Instrument: 6-course lute or guitar. Published: 2015, Peacock Press (UK).
  • English Lute Duets of the Golden Age: The Ultimate Collection (limited edition boxed set). Instrument: 6-course lute or guitar. Published: 2016, Peacock Press (UK).
  • The Lutenist's Handbook. A Practical Rough Guide to Playing the Lute. Published: 2016 Lightning Source/Peacock Press.
  • John Dowland: Complete Solo Fantasias. Instrument: 6-course+ renaissance lute or guitar. Published: 2016, Peacock Press (UK).


Salfield has performed as a soloist, as an accompanist to singers including the "highly regarded" Lucile Clitherow,[18] and Susan King; in duo with lutenists Denys Stephens[19] and Michael Tyack, and his brother Jon Salfield; and in ensemble with Horsemen of the Apocalypse (featuring Jon Salfield on flamenco guitar, percussionist Simon Stanton and bass guitarist Rowan Nightingale) and various (often Polish) string quartets Quartet. In August 2015 he gave four concert performances in the UK with his new duo partnership featuring Italian classical guitarist Andrea Dieci, and that November appeared in a series of concerts with him in Poland. BMG Magazine described the duo as "two of the world's finest musicians in their respective fields"[20] Between 1988 and 2013, Salfield performed only on a 10-course lute made by luthier Philip Brown. After the instrument was rebuilt for a third time, following damage during air transit on his way to perform with Lucile Clitherow in Slovakia,[21] he commissioned luthier Kif Wood to make him "the ultimate instrument" – a 10-course lutar – which featured brand new building techniques and materials.[22] The lutar made its concert début at Ben Salfield's 25th Anniversary Concert at Towednack Church, St Ives in September 2013.[23] There is no official word for someone who plays a lutar, and he continues to be described as a "lutenist".[24]


Ben Salfield teaches privately in Cornwall. He also gives master classes abroad and has taught at summer schools in Poland, Germany and Italy. He has also appeared on juries for international guitar competitions since 1993, when he was a member of the jury that gave Italian guitarist Nicola Jappelli first prize in the Niccolo Paganini Festival, Parma, Italy. More recently, he was a jury member at Dolný Kubín, Slovakia, in 2011.

Personal life[edit]

Salfield lives in Tuckingmill, Cornwall, UK. He has two children from previous relationships.

In August 1994, at Battle, East Sussex, Ben Salfield fought against an unknown adversary with cavalry swords, over an insult allegedly made to a lady. The musician won, and he told BBC Radio Cornwall that "both our 'seconds' claimed neither of us suffered serious injury. He also recalled the incident as happening "on a hillside at dawn, dressed in 17th century clothes", and described it as "a brutal but fair way to decide a matter of honour". [25] This has the distinction of being the last recorded duel to take place on British soil. [26]

External links[edit]

Ben Salfield's website:


  1. ^ British Medical Journal
  2. ^ Truro Fencing Club[permanent dead link]
  3. ^ West Briton newspaper, A.Boughton, August 1989: “Performance of Real Perfection”. “(Ben Salfield)... compares favourably with such master lutenists as Julian Bream”.
  4. ^ Gazetta di Parma newspaper, Vincenzo Raffaele, May 2003: “(Ben Salfield is)... a dominant figure in the esoteric niche of the lute world, despite his young age. A quintessentially English, eccentric figure, wearing a tuxedo... shiny patent shoes, his long hair centre-parted, and sunglasses like a rock star, from above which he gave ironical glances towards his audience as his hands flew over the wide highway of his instrument's fretboard”.
  5. ^ Krzyzowa Summer Classes, 2003 “The outstanding English lutenist... Ben Salfield is an eminent interpreter of John Dowland's music”.
  6. ^ Carsten Groendahl, Director, Malmoe Gittarfestival 2003: “(Ben Salfield is)... the most exciting lutenist of his generation”.
  7. ^ Nicola Hall interview, BBC Radio Derby, September 1993: "Ben Salfield... is like some modern-day Paganini".
  8. ^ David van der Hof, Falmouth Packet, April, 2007:[permanent dead link]
  9. ^
  10. ^ BMG Magazine, Winter 2013 p117: "On the strength of this latest concert performance, there can be few rivals, if any, to his explosive talent".
  11. ^ Cornwall Today, August 2015 p148: "Ben Salfield is an extremely busy man with a huge international following".
  12. ^ BBC World, “Destination Music” Series II Volume I, Marrli Productions, produced and directed by Walli Ullah, 2006.
  13. ^ West Briton newspaper, February 2009: “Ben Salfield's pedigree as artistic director is impeccable. As a performer... he has earned respect in music circles worldwide over the years”
  14. ^
  15. ^ Modran Special Edition, “5-4-10 Five Preludes for Andrea Dieci”, published December 2012 by Modran, Poland, first performed at the Tabard Theatre, London, April 2012.
  16. ^ North Devon Maritime Trust, launch of “Atlantic Adventurer”, 1996.
  17. ^ Ben Salfield's Facebook fan page, January 2017.
  18. ^ West Briton newspaper, September 2011
  19. ^ Tolmen International Guitar Festival 2011
  20. ^ BMG Magazine, Winter 2015, review by Si Hunter
  21. ^ Katarina Wieczorek-Bibkova, Director, Modra International Guitar Festival, June 2012.
  22. ^ Kif Wood, luthier, March 2013
  23. ^ St.Ives September Festival 2013[permanent dead link]
  24. ^ Programme for Dieci Salfield Duo in concert, August 26th-29th 2015: "Ben Salfield is one of the world's leading lutenists".
  25. ^ BBC Radio Cornwall, September 2000
  26. ^