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Thursday, 20 August 2020

Julian Bream 1933 - 2020


Julian Alexander Bream 1933 - 2020

The classical guitarist, Julian Bream, who passed away last week at the age of 87, was the first truly great British classical guitarist making his debut at the Wigmore Hall in 1951 where he announced his presence to the world. At the age of eleven he heard a recording of Andre Segovia and fell in love with the instrument. Segovia had dragged the instrument from relative obscurity and raised it to a genuine concert instrument with contemporary composers vying to offer new works. Bream continued the work and simultaneously promoted the lute in a similar way.

He was a very expressive player and this compared with his near contemporary, John Williams (born Melbourne, Australia 1941) who was, technically the better player (Segovia had said of Williams that ”God has laid his finger on his brow.”)

However, Bream had a flair and emotional connection to his music that I don’t think Williams displays. As a 17 year-old student of the guitar I met John Williams when he gave a concert at the Commonwealth Institute in London. He approached me in the queue and asked me what time the concert started. I told him and we chatted for a while. As he walked away, my friend told me who he was. I had no idea!

Julian Bream at 85

Bream retired from performing in 2002. Unlike many of his professional colleagues, he had a wide range of interests outside of music. He was passionate about cricket and was a member of the MCC. He was also a formidable table tennis player. Apart from his interests in gardening and his famously well-stocked wine cellar, the visual arts were a constant stimulation – he had a fine collection of late 19th- and early 20th-century English and Scottish paintings – and he was a well-informed collector of English period furniture. The companionship of his dogs became increasingly important to him, particularly after a heart attack on Christmas Eve 1998, when his doctors recommended a routine of regular exercise. Thereafter he became a familiar sight on the North Dorset Downs, striding along with his beautiful flat-coated retrievers at heel.

Listen to Julian Bream playing Cadiz (from the Iberia Suite by Albeniz)

Go on, treat yourself!


Hels said...

Most people cope with life by being averagely skilled in all endeavours or more skilled in one area. Some people are doubly blessed, combining maths and music for example. But Julian Bream developed expertise in more than two areas, including sport .. which I would not have expected!

Parnassus said...

Hello Bazza, It's too bad that such an iconic figure of classical music is gone. Last summer when I was in Ohio I came across a box of old guitar LP's, including many by Julian Bream and including the other guitarists you mention here. I listened to all of them, deciding which to keep and which to get rid of. Each player had a distinct style and interpretation. I agree with you that John Williams was a phenomenon. One Player I particularly liked was the lutenist Walter Gerwig.

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Bazza - Julian Bream was exceptional wasn't he ... he had a passion and explored it to its fullness ... I'm sure his other interests just gave that extra to life - a well rounded man. Love listening to his works ... thanks for reminding us of his other attributes - take care - Hilary

Starting Over, Accepting Changes - Maybe said...

He made some beautiful music.

bazza said...

Hels: No, the sport was a surprise but the wine, paintings and furniture weren't!

bazza said...

Jim: I find that generally much of the classical repertoire transcribes better for guitar than it does for the lute.

bazza said...

Hilary: 'Passion' is exactly the right word for Julian Bream! Maybe it was the wider aspect of his interests that made him more rounded?

bazza said...

Arleen: Oh yes! I'm listening to his playing as I write this.