According to the German magazine Staccato, "…José Manuel plays very confidently. At all times the sensation that he guides us through his music with great transparency prevails." Classical Guitar magazine said about his debut in England, "… scored full marks in a very memorable performance…displayed a range of technical expertise and delicate emotions …a secure technique, a beautiful tone and imaginative interpretational skills…" Critics in the U.S.A. have noted Mr. Dapena as, "…a talented guitarist and an artistic proponent of the Spanish culture…a great Spanish master of the guitar…a player with stirring musicality."
Since José Manuel Dapena first began studying the classical guitar he took classes in Spain with David Russell who had a great influence on his conception of the instrument and wrote, "He is an excellent player with a strong warm tone, agile technique and is able to bring magic to the musical phrases." Dapena also studied under Manuel Barrueco at the Peabody Conservatory in Baltimore, Maryland.
His repertoire is especially diverse, ranging from transcriptions of Bach and other earlier composers to works of the present day. He also has a unique interest in presenting monographic concert programs. His latest work in this field has been a recital including the complete sonatas of Fernando Sor and Joaquín Turina's complete works for solo guitar to commemorate the 50th year after this composer's passing. Turina's grandson José Luis, also a noted composer was a teacher of Dapena's at the Conservatory in Madrid and said about his student, "he possesses an extensive musical background, in written as well as in analytical aspects, which enhances his brilliant professional career."
In a guitar competition in Paris he was awarded a prize and his debut CD ranked highly amongst other musicians of his generation. He has broadcasted on numerous radio stations in Europe and the United States, one of which was a complete live concert on New England's largest classical radio station WGBH (Boston). José Manuel Dapena has a wide international experience, playing in places such as Raitt Recital Hall - Los Angeles, Coral Gables - Miami, French Library - Boston, Leaking Hall - Baltimore, Henegar Arts Center - Melbourne, St. Paul's - New York, The Three Arts - Chicago, C. Cathedral - Hartford (USA), Johannesgasse Konzertsaal - Vienna (Austria), Atrium de Chaville - Paris (France), Sala Maia - Oporto (Portugal), Philippos Nakas - Athens (Greece), Palazzo Borsalino - Alessandria (Italy), Yotsuya Kumin Hall - Tokyo (Japan), Fundación Juan March - Madrid (Spain), King John's House -Southampton, Greenwood Centre - Twickenham, Knott Memorial Hall - Newcastle, Cedar Park - Derby (England), Souza Lima - Sao Paulo (Brazil) or Royal Dublin Society (Ireland).