Classical Guitar Virtuoso Profile: Julian Bream
Julian Bream is without a doubt my favourite classical guitarist. I was privileged enough to see the living legend perform in my first year of guitar lessons in 1988. From memory I think most of his repertoire at the time was very modern and featured 'All in Twilight' by Toru Takemitsu. The downside of the recital was that I had only just started learning classical guitar and I couldn't appreciate the virtuosity and the grandeur of the musicianship that was on display. Honestly I didn't even really know who Julian Bream was. I do clearly recall my guitar teacher telling me later that Julian Bream also organised and marketed his own concerts around the world. That is something that I find truly staggering.
Why Do I Like Julian Bream?
I like Julian Bream for three main reasons:
- His uncanny ability to find the important melodic lines or rhythms within a piece
- His astonishing use of tonal colours
- His unique and utterly idiomatic & unique interpretations
Many critics have lauded Julian's ability to capture the very essence of the pieces that he plays. It would seem that most of us share their opinions. If you read any of the comments in the numerous YouTube videos of Julian performing you will see that it is his sensitivity and deep understanding of music that people have grown to love and admire. It doesn't matter if it's a 400 year old Renaissance lute piece or a modern work by William Walton or Benjamin Britten - Bream will always find a way to make it musical and accessible to an audience. His ability to capture the soul and beauty of a piece is unparalleled.
When I was at University I would often pull out a vinyl recording of Bream playing the famous 'Concierto de Aranjuez'. It was so inspirational for me and it helped to keep me plugging away when I was studying. I always marvelled (and still do) at his timbral variations.
Unfortunately Bream stopped giving recitals in 2002 after more than 50 years of performing around the world. Thankfully his numerous recordings are still available for us to enjoy and love. If you have time I would strongly suggest heading across to YouTube to watch these two wonderful documentaries:
- My Life In Music. An enchanting 2 hour journey through Julian's life from his earliest days as a youth right through to the latter stages of a career spanning several decades.
- Guitarra - The Guitar In Spain. This is a 3 hour documentary about the history of the guitar and the influence that Spanish luthiers & composers have had on the instrument since the days of Torres.
Let your fingers fly!