Bream in 1964
15 July 1933|
|Instruments||classical guitar, lute, baroque guitar|
|Labels||RCA Victor, EMI, BMG|
Julian Alexander Bream, CBE (born 15 July 1933), is an English classical guitarist and lutenist. One of the most distinguished classical guitarists of the 20th century, he played a significant role in altering the public perception of the classical guitar as a respectable instrument in Britain and beyond. Bream has also been successful in renewing popular interest in the lute.
Bream was born in Battersea, London, and brought up in a musical environment in Hampton. Bream described his parents as both "conventional suburban", but in another way "very unusual". His father was a commercial artist, with an "extraordinary talent for drawing" and a "natural musician" according to Bream. Bream would lie under the piano in "ecstasy" when his father played. His mother, of Scottish descent, was a very beautiful woman who was often, according to Bream, "not always there" mentally and did not like music, but was a warm-hearted person. His grandmother owned a pub in Battersea, and Bream spent much time there during his youth. His father played jazz guitar and the young Bream was impressed by hearing the playing of Django Reinhardt; he would later call his dog "Django".
Bream began his lifelong association with the guitar by strumming along on his father′s jazz guitar at an early age to dance music on the radio. He became frustrated with his lack of knowledge of harmony, so read instruction books by Eddie Lang to teach himself. His father taught him the rudimentary basics. The president of the Philharmonic Society of Guitars, Dr Boris Perott, gave Bream further lessons, while his father became the society librarian, giving young Bream access to a large collection of rare music.
On his 11th birthday, Bream was given a small gut-strung Spanish 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 composition at the Royal College of Music. Aged 13, he made his debut guitar recital at Cheltenham on 17 February 1947; in 1951, he debuted at Wigmore Hall.
Leaving the RCM in 1952, Bream was called up into the army for national service. He was originally drafted into the Pay Corps, but managed to sign up for the Royal Artillery Band after six months. This required him to be stationed in Woolwich, which allowed him to moonlight regularly in London with the guitar.
After three years in the army, he took any musical jobs that came his way, including background music for radio plays and films. Commercial film, recording sessions and work for the BBC were important to Bream throughout the 1950s and the early 1960s.
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.
Bream pursued a busy career playing around the world, his first European tours took place in 1954 and 1955, followed (beginning in 1958) by extensive touring in the Far East, India, Australia, the Pacific Islands and many other parts of the world. Bream performed for the Peabody Mason Concert series in Boston, first solo, in 1959, and later with the US debut of his Consort.
Bream has recorded extensively for RCA Victor and EMI Classics. These recordings have won him several awards, including four Grammy Awards, two for Best Chamber Music Performance and two for Best Classical Performance. RCA also released The Ultimate Guitar Collection, a multi-CD set commemorating his birthday in 1993.
From the beginning of the 1990s Julian Bream continued his recording career with EMI Classics, featuring music by Johann Sebastian Bach, a Concerto album (with the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra and Sir Simon Rattle), and discs devoted to contemporary works and guitar sonatas.
Despite his importance as a classical guitarist, however, many of his RCA recordings (including the series of 20th-century guitar music) were out of print for several years. In 2011, RCA/Sony Classical released My Favorite Albums, a 10-CD set of albums chosen by Julian Bream himself. In 2013, RCA/Sony Classical released Julian Bream: The Complete RCA Album Collection, a 40-CD set of all his RCA albums, also including two DVDs with The Lively Arts -- Julian Bream: A Life in the Country, the 1976 BBC film; and four BBC shows: Omnibus: Anniversary of Sir William Walton , The Julian Bream Consort (1961), Monitor -- Film Profile of Julian Bream , and The Julian Bream Consort (1964).
A highly successful film, A Life in the Country, was first shown on BBC TV in 1976. In it, the narrator and Bream discuss his beginnings and his life as a concert guitarist. Bream also presented a series of four master-classes for guitarists on BBC TV. In 1984 he made eight films on location in Spain for Channel 4, exploring historical perspectives of Spanish guitar music.
In 1991, BBC Radio and TV broadcast Bream's BBC Prom performance of Malcolm Arnold's Guitar Concerto. He also participated in a recital and concerto performances of works by Tōru Takemitsu at the Japan Festival in London with the London Symphony Orchestra.
During the 1992-93 season he performed on two separate occasions at the Wigmore Hall - at their Gala Re-opening Festival, and at a special concert celebrating his 60th birthday. In the same period, he toured the Far East, visiting Hong Kong, Taiwan, Korea and Japan, and performed the premiere of Leo Brouwer's arrangement for guitar and orchestra of Albéniz's Iberia at the Proms. In 1994 Bream made debuts in both Turkey and Israel to great acclaim, and the following year played for the soundtrack to the Hollywood film Don Juan DeMarco.
In 1997, in celebration of the 50th anniversary of his debut, he performed a recital at Cheltenham Town Hall. A few weeks later, the BBC dedicated a special television tribute This Is Your Life programme to Julian Bream, filmed after a commemorative concert at the Queen Elizabeth Hall, London.
In recent years, his engagements have included a Gala solo performance at the Philharmonic Hall, Liverpool, a Kosovo Aid concert at St. John's, Smith Square, London, with the Academy of St. Martin in the Fields recitals at the Snape Proms, Aldeburgh, and at the Norfolk and Norwich Festival and a tour of UK National Trust properties in summer and autumn 2000.
The 2003 DVD video profile Julian Bream: My Life in Music contains three hours of interviews and performances. It has been declared by Graham Wade "the finest film contribution ever to the classic guitar." It became "GRAMOPHONE DVD of the year". His series Guitarra! was made for Channel 4 television and charts a journey across Spain.
Style and influences
Bream's recitals are wide-ranging, including transcriptions from the 17th century, many pieces by Bach arranged for guitar, popular Spanish pieces, and contemporary music, for much of which he was the inspiration. He has stated that he has been influenced by the styles of Andrés Segovia and Francisco Tárrega.
Bream's playing can be characterised as virtuosic and highly expressive, with an eye for details, and with strong use of contrasting timbres.
Dedications and collaborations
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, Toru Takemitsu, Michael Tippett, William Walton and Peter Maxwell Davies. 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).
Honours and awards
Bream was appointed Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) in 1964 for services to music, and in the Queen's Birthday Honours List of 1985 he was made a Commander of the Order of the British Empire. He has received Honorary Doctorates from the Universities of Surrey (1968), and Leeds (1984). In 1976 he was personally presented with the Villa-Lobos Gold Medal by the composer's widow. He was elected an Honorary Member of the Royal Academy of Music (1966), and has been honoured with Fellowships of the Royal College of Music (1981) and the Royal Northern College of Music (1983). In 1988 he became an Honorary Member of the Royal Philharmonic Society, and was also presented with the Royal Philharmonic Society Instrumentalist's Award in 1996.
In 1984 Bream’s arm was seriously injured in a car accident. It cost him great effort to regain his previous technical ability.
He is keen on the game of cricket and is a member of the M.C.C.
Bream has said that he had some "sessions" with Segovia but never really studied with him. Segovia provided a personal endorsement and scholarship request to assist Bream in taking further formal music studies.
Bream met Igor Stravinsky in Toronto, Canada in 1965. He tried unsuccessfully to persuade the composer to write a composition for the lute and actually played a pavane by Dowland for him. The meeting between Bream and Stravinsky, including Bream's impromptu playing, was filmed by the National Film Board of Canada in making a documentary about the composer.
Pieces written for
- Reginald Smith Brindle Nocturne for Guitar Solo (1946)
- Lennox Berkeley Sonatina, op. 52, no. 1 (1957)
- Benjamin Britten Songs from the Chinese for high voice and guitar, Op. 58 (1957)
- Hans Werner Henze Drei Tentos (Kammermusic 1958)
- Denis ApIvor Variations for Guitar, Op. 29 (1958)
- Tristram Cary Sonata (1959)
- Malcolm Arnold Concerto for Guitar and Chamber Orchestra, op. 67 (1959)
- Benjamin Britten Nocturnal after John Dowland, Op. 70 (1963)
- Richard Rodney Bennett Impromptus (1968)
- Tom Eastwood Ballade-Phantasy (1968)
- Peter Racine Fricker Paseo (1969)
- Reginald Smith Brindle Variants on two themes of J. S. Bach (1970)
- Richard Rodney Bennett Guitar Concerto (1970)
- Malcolm Arnold Fantasy, op. 107 (1971)
- Alan Rawsthorne Elegy (1971)
- William Walton Five Bagatelles (1972)
- Humphrey Searle Five (1974)
- Lennox Berkeley Guitar Concerto, Op. 88 (1974)
- Hans Werner Henze Royal Winter Music (first sonata, 1976)
- Giles Swayne Suite, Op. 21 (1976)
- Peter Maxwell Davies Hill Runes (1981)
- Michael Berkeley Sonata in One Movement (1982)
- Richard Rodney Bennett Sonata (1983)
- Michael Tippett The Blue Guitar (1984)
- Giles Swayne Solo for Guitar (1986)
- Leo Brouwer Concerto elegiaco (Guitar Concerto No. 3) (1986)
- Toru Takemitsu All in Twilight (1987)
- Leo Brouwer Sonata (1990)
- Peter Maxwell Davies Sonata (1990)
- Toru Takemitsu Muir Woods (In the Woods) (1996)
- Harrison Birtwistle Construction with Guitar Player: Beyond the White Hand (2013) (Commissioned by the Julian Bream Trust)
- Leo Brouwer Ars Combinatoria (Sonata No. 5) (2013) (Commissioned by the Julian Bream Trust)
Awards and recognitions
- 1964: Officer of the Order of the British Empire
- 1964: Grammy Award for Best Chamber Music Performance at the Grammy Awards of 1964 for Evening of Elizabethan Music performed by the Julian Bream Consort
- 1966: Honorary Member of the Royal Academy of Music
- 1967: Grammy Award for Best Classical Performance – Instrumental Soloist or Soloists (with or without orchestra) at the Grammy Awards of 1967 for Baroque Guitar (Works of Bach, Sanz, Weiss, etc.)
- 1968: Honorary Doctorate from the University of Surrey
- 1968: Edison Award
- 1972: Grammy Award for Best Instrumental Soloist(s) Performance (with orchestra) at the Grammy Awards of 1972 for André Previn (conductor), Julian Bream & the London Symphony Orchestra for Villa-Lobos: Concerto for Guitar
- 1972-73: Edison Award
- 1973: Grammy Award for Best Chamber Music Performance at the Grammy Awards of 1973 for Julian Bream & John Williams for Julian and John (Works by Lawes, Carulli, Albéniz, Granados)
- 1981: Fellowship of the Royal College of Music
- 1983: Fellowship of the Royal Northern College of Music
- 1984: Honorary Doctorate from the University of Leeds
- 1985: Commander of the Order of the British Empire
- 1988: Honorary Member of the Royal Philharmonic Society
- 1996: Royal Philharmonic Society Instrumentalist's Award
- 1999: Doctor of Philosophy from London Guildhall University
- 2009: Honorary Doctorate from the Open University
- The Art Of Julian Bream (November 1960), RCA LSC-2448
- Guitar Concertos (January 1961), RCA LSC-2487
- The Golden Age of English Lute Music (September 1961), RCA LDS-2560
- An Evening Of Elizabethan Music (1963), RCA LDS-2656 (reissued March 1971 as LSC-3195)
- Julian Bream: Rodrigo, Vivaldi Concertos, Britten Dances from "Gloriana" (1964), RCA LSC-2730
- 20th Century Guitar, RCA LSC-2964
- 70's, RCA ARL 0049
- Dedication, RCA ARL 5034
- Julian Bream Plays Dowland, CLP 1726
- A Bach Recital for the Guitar, Westminster CLP 1929
- Baroque Guitar (1966), RCA
- The Classical Guitar (3 - LP set), Westminister WMS -1029
- Collection of the Greatest Performances of Julian Bream, Vol. II, Westminster
- Concertos for Lute and Orchestra, RCA ARL1-1180
- Dances of Dowland, RCA LSC-2987
- Elizabethan Lute Songs, RCA LSC-3131
- Elizabethan Music by The Julian Bream Consort, RCA LSC-3195
- The Golden Age of English Lute Music, RCA LSC-3196 RCA LD-2560
- J.S. Bach Lute Suites Nos. 1 and 2 (1966), RCA LSC-2896
- Julian & John, RCA
- Julian & John/2, 1974 RCA ARL1-0456
- Julian Bream's Greatest Hits, Westminster
- Julian Bream's Greatest Hits Volume Two, Westminster 9008-8185
- Lute Music of John Dowland, RCA ARL1-1491
- John Dowland: 14 Lute Pieces, Westminster W-9079
- Music for Voice and Guitar with Peter Pears, RCA LSC-2718
- Popular Classics for Spanish Guitar, RCA
- Rodrigo: Concerto De Aranjuez, Berkeley Guitar Concerto (1975), RCA
- Sonatas for Lute and Harpsichord—Bach, Vivaldi with George Malcolm, RCA LSC-3100
- Villa-Lobos, Twelve Etudes for Guitar, Suite populaire bresillienne (1978), RCA
- Julian Bream, The Art of the Spanish Guitar (1970) RCA SRS 3002
- The Woods So Wild, RCA LSC-3331
- Guitarra: The Guitar in Spain (1985), RCA (contains material not on the CD)
- Fret Works (1990), MCA ASIN B00000DWBQ
- Guitarra: The Guitar in Spain (1990), RCA ASIN B000003EOU
- Joaquin Rodrigo: Concerto Elegiaco/Fantasia Para Un Gentilhombre (1990), RCA ASIN B00000E6E7
- Julian Bream plays Bach (1990), RCA ASIN B000003EOG
- Julian Bream Plays Granados & Albéniz (Music of Spain, Volume Five) (1990), RCA ASIN B00000E68D
- Music of Spain, Vol. 7 (1990), RCA ASIN B00000E697
- Two Loves with Peggy Ashcroft (1990), RCA ASIN B00000E6FM
- Baroque Guitar (1991), RCA ASIN B000003F1J
- La Guitarra Romantica (1991), RCA ASIN B000003F0G
- Rodrigo: Concierto de Aranjuez; Villa-Lobos: Preludes (1991), RCA ASIN B000003EPS
- Romantic Guitar (1991), RCA ASIN B000003EQA
- Baroque Guitar (1993), RCA ASIN B000025HGT
- A Celebration of Andrés Segovia—Bream (1993), RCA ASIN B000009JN3
- Highlights from the Julian Bream Edition (1993), RCA ASIN B000003FKP
- Rodrigo: Concierto de Aranjuez; Fantasía para un gentilhombre No1-5 (1993), RCA ASIN B000003FI4
- Rodrigo: Concierto de Aranjuez; Takemitsu: To the Edge of Dream with Simon Rattle and the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra (1993), Capitol ASIN B00000DNS6
- Together/Julian Bream & John Williams (1993), RCA ASIN B000003FDM
- Together Again/ Julian Bream & John Williams (1993), RCA ASIN B000003FDN
- Villa-Lobos: Guitar Concerto; Preludes; Etudes with André Previn and the London Symphony Orchestra (1993), BMG International ASIN B000024RKH
- Bach Guitar Recital (1994), EMI Classics ASIN B000002RU9
- Bach: Lute Suites, Trio Sonatas (1994), RCA ASIN B000003FG2
- Guitar Concertos (1994), RCA ASIN B000003FG4
- Julian Bream Consort, Vol. 6 (1994), RCA ASIN B000003FFX
- Music of Spain (1994), RCA ASIN B000003FG6
- Popular Classics for Spanish Guitar (1994), RCA ASIN B000003FFY
- Romantic Guitar (1994), RCA ASIN B000003FFZ
- Sonata (1995), Angel ASIN B000002RUX
- 20th Century Guitar I (1996), RCA ASIN B000003FG0
- The Golden Age of English Lute Music (1996), RCA ASIN B000003FFW
- Music for Voice & Guitar (1996), RCA ASIN B000003FG1
- Music of Spain: Milán, Narváez (1996), RCA ASIN B000003FG5
- Popular Classics for the Spanish Guitar (1997), RCA ASIN B000003G9U
- Julian Bream Edition, Volume 1: The Golden Age of English Lute Music (28 CDs) (1998), RCA ASIN B000003FFV
- The Romantic Hours (1998), RCA ASIN B000003FSG
- Spain—Sor, Vol. 24 (1998), BMG Classics ASIN B000025HGH
- Guitar Concertos (1999), RCA ASIN B00000HZS3
- Guitar Music by Albeniz, Vivaldi, Rodrigo & Grandos (2 CDs) (1999), RCA Classics/BMG ASIN B00002DFHV
- Woods So Wild (1999), RCA ASIN B00000HZS6
- Nocturnal: Martin, Britten, Brouwer, Lutoslavski (2000), EMI ASIN B000002RTP
- The Ultimate Guitar Collection (2 CDs) (2000), RCA ASIN B00004UEH6
- Duos de Guitares with John Williams (2001), RCA ASIN B00005I9SO
- Spanish Guitar Music (remastered) (2001), Deutsche Grammophon ASIN B00005OLDN
- Spanish Guitar Recital (2001), RCA ASIN B00005OC01
- Rodrigo: Concierto de Aranjuez; Fantasía para un gentilhombre; Tres piezas espanolas; invocacion y danza (remastered) (2004), RCA ASIN B0002DD67Y
- Spanish Guitar Recital (2004), ASIN B000026GX4
- Guitar Recital: Bach, Sor, Turina, Tippet, Schubert (2005), Testament ASIN B0009UC6L2
- Music of Spain (2005), RCA ASIN B0009U55QA
- Elizabethan Lute Songs, Decca ASIN B000ICGD06
- Julian Bream & Friends, Musical Heritage Society ASIN B000294GJK
- Lute Music from the Royal Courts of Europe, BMG Classics ASIN B000G27DIO
- Music of Spain: The Classical Heritage, RCA ASIN B0001GH54C
- My Favorite Albums, RCA/Sony Classical ASIN B001DD0HPG
- "Julian Bream". google.ca. Retrieved 8 November 2015.
- Sensier and Wade, 2001
- "My Life in Music". accessed via YouTube. Retrieved 24 February 2015.
- The Lively Arts -- Julian Bream: A Life in the Country (DVD)
- Julian Bream: The Complete RCA Album Collection booklet
- Miller, Margo (7 December 1963). "The Bream concert dances all night". Boston Globe.
- Grammy Award Winners "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 1 February 2012. Retrieved 2011-03-21.
- Britten, Benjamin (1964). Nocturnal after John Dowland, for guitar op. 70. London: Faber.
- Button, Stuart (1997). Julian Bream - The Foundations of a Musical Career. Aldershot: Scholar Press. p. 97.
- "Segovia's Contribution to Technical Studies". Graham Wade, EGTA Guitar Journal no.4 (July 1993). Archived from the original on 8 July 2008.http://egta.co.uk/blog/articles/teachers-and-teaching/segovias-contribution-to-technical-studies-4
- "Stravinsky". National Film Board of Canada. Retrieved 2015-11-09.
- No strings attached: article by Anna Tyzack in the Daily Telegraph Property section pp 1&2, 22 September 2007 (Issue no 47,730)
- Peter Sensier & Graham Wade. "Bream, Julian (Alexander)" in The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians MacMillan, 2001
- Stuart W. Button, Julian Bream, the Foundations of a Musical Career, Scolar Press, 1997 (reissued by Bold Strummer Ltd, 2006. ISBN 1-57784-067-4)
- Graham Wade, The Art of Julian Bream, Ashley Mark Publishing Company, 2008
- Julian Bream: a Life on the Road. London: Macdonald, 1982. ISBN 0-356-07880-9. Text by Tony Palmer, photographs by Daniel Meadows, includes discography (pp. 204–16)
- Julian Bream's myspace page
- Biography (Hazard Chase)
- Some photos of LP covers (Oviatt Library Digital Collections)