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10/19/07

Julian Bream


Julian Bream (born July 15, 1933) is a internationally celebrated British guitarist and lutenist. Among his other accomplishments, he has been successful in the renewal of interest in the Renaissance lute.

Bream was born in London and brought up in a very musical environment. His father played jazz guitar and the young Bream was impressed by hearing the playing of Django Reinhardt. He was encouraged to play the piano but also the guitar (though using a plectrum). On his 11th birthday, Bream was given a classical guitar by his father. He became something of a child prodigy, at 12 winning a junior exhibition award for his piano playing, enabling him to study piano and cello at the Royal College of Music. He made his debut guitar recital at Cheltenham in 1947, aged 13.

In 1951 he made his debut in the Wigmore Hall in London. After national service, he resumed a busy career, playing around the world, including annual tours in the USA and Europe for several years. He played part of a recital at the Wigmore Hall on the lute in 1952 and since has done much to bring to light music written for the instrument. 1960 saw the formation of the Julian Bream Consort, a period-instrument ensemble with Bream as lutenist. The consort led a great revival of interest in the music of the Elizabethan era. His first European tours took place in 1954 and 1955, and were followed by extensive touring in North America (beginning in 1958), the Far East, India, Australia, the Pacific Islands and other parts of the world.

Bream has recorded extensively for RCA and EMI Classics. These recordings have won him several awards, including several Grammys. RCA also released The Ultimate Guitar Collection, a multi-CD set commemorating his birthday in 1993.

In 1984 Bream's arm was seriously injured in a car accident. It cost him great effort to regain his previous technical ability.

Bream's recitals are wide-ranging, including transcriptions from the 17th century, many pieces by Johann Sebastian Bach arranged for guitar, popular Spanish pieces, and contemporary music, much for which he was the inspiration. He has stated that he has been influenced by the styles of Andres Segovia and Fransisco Tarrega. Additionally, his fame as a lutenist is as great as his reputation as a guitarist.

Many composers have worked with Bream, and among those who dedicated pieces to him are Malcolm Arnold, Richard Rodney Bennett, Benjamin Britten, Leo Brouwer, Peter Racine Fricker, Hans Werner Henze, Humphrey Searle, To-ru Takemitsu, Michael Tippett and William Walton. Britten's Nocturnal is one of the most famous pieces in the classical guitar repertoire and was written with Bream specifically in mind. It is an unusual set of variations on John Dowland's Come Heavy Sleep (which is played in its original form at the close of the piece).

Bream has also taken part in many collaborations, including work with Peter Pears on Elizabethan music for lute and voice, and three records of guitar duets with John Williams.

Bream's playing can be characterized as virtuosic and highly expressive, with an eye for details, and with strong use of contrasting timbres.

The above, along with his many radio and television appearances, have made Bream an important ambassador for the classical guitar. Despite his importance, many of his RCA Records recordings (including the series of 20th century guitar music) are out of print.

The 2003 DVD video profile Julian Bream: My Life In Music contains three hours of interview and performance. It has been declared by Graham Wade "the finest film contribution ever to the classic guitar." His series Guitarra! was made for British television and charts a journey across Spain.

Bream enjoys a reputation as a down-to-earth Londoner who likes nothing more than a pint of beer in his local pub, and who is consumed by a genuine passion for classical guitar music in all its forms.

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Photo from www.troychromatics.org

See Julian Bream classical guitar technique on VDO bar above

Julian Bream -Bach-Violin Sonata fugue

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