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The Essential Julian Bream
see end of review for track listing
Julian Bream (guitar and lute)
Melos Ensemble/Malcolm Arnold ¹
George Malcolm (harpsichord) ²
Julian Bream Consort  (Olive Zorian (violin), David Sandeman (flute, alto flute piccolo), Joy Hall (bass viola da gamba), Robert Spencer (tabor), Desmond Dupré (bass viola da gamba)) ³
rec. 1959-90
BMG-RCA RED SEAL 88697 214422 [67:29 + 77:01]
Experience Classicsonline

Julian Bream has personally selected these recordings for this Essential tribute from RCA Red Seal. Naturally you will note strong overlaps between many of the items and other recent RCA restorations. Those of you who bought the Music of Spain box set for example (see review) – indispensable for Bream-ites – will want to know that the following are duplicated; the Tárrega Recuerdos de la Alhambra, Malats’ Serenata, Turina’s Fandanguillo, Pujol’s Guajira, Rodrigo’s Invocación y Danza, Aguado’s Rondo, Sor’s Mozart variations, and Granados’ Valses poeticos. Further I should note that that we only get the central movement of Malcolm Arnold’s Concerto – there wasn’t room for the whole thing.
Apart from this, it’s sheer pleasure of course. It’s perfectly reasonable to open the two disc set with Recuerdos de la Alhambra so evocative is Bream’s famous performance of it. But the three Villa-Lobos Etudes, though perhaps less well-known recordings, prove just as adeptly coloured; the legato spun seventh contrasting well with the moderato eighth with its profuse sense of introspection and romance. Bream enjoys Malats – and the spicy rubati that inflect the Serenata attest to the affinity. But then affinity is everywhere. He has cannily – or someone at RCA has cannily – inserted the Walton Bagatelles in this Iberian first disc. They emerge suitably energised. The opening Allegro has an expressive, rather brooding central panel around which the lissom outer sections dance. The listless waltz is tinged with loss and the espressivo fourth Bagatelle emerges as a concentrated and refined core of Walton’s expressive gifts.  Nor does Bream stint de Falla’s languorous tribute to Debussy or the guitarist’s own transcription of the Miller’s Dance from The Three-cornered Hat. It would be quite wrong to overlook the virile, toe-tapping delight of Pujol’s Guajira – a bare minimum of “gym shoes” squeaks. I noted that the Walton was an outpost of non-Iberia in this first disc but actually the first disc ends, a touch incongruously, with the Britten Gloriana Courtly Dances. Here, for the only time, he plays the lute with well-known players from his consort. I’d forgotten how beautiful the Pavan is. 
The second disc opens with the baroque inspirations of Sanz and Guerau – ever vibrant and colourful, each piece characterised and coloured with charm. The Bach trio sonata teams Bream with George Malcolm – try the finale for brio. The harpsichordist returns for the Boccherini arrangement – once more Bream’s – and for more virtuosic élan. But it’s in the heart of Granados’ Valses poéticos that we feel Bream most fully himself; playing of ravishing texture, rhythmic ardour, judicious weight and lyric control. To end we have the slow sardonic creep of the slinky blues-tinged Arnold – and how well Bream responds to the Shostakovich meets Bernstein animations of the middle section.
Recorded over many years these are all pretty much self-selecting classics from the Bream recorded canon. It helps that he’s done the selecting. The notes are basic, the remastering unproblematic, the music making wonderful.
Jonathan Woolf

Track listing
Francisco TARREGA (1852 - 1909)
Recuerdos de la Alhambra [3:50]
Heitor VILLA-LOBOS (1887 - 1959) 
Etudes (12) for Guitar, W 235 (1929) Nos. 7 in E major [2:26]; 8 in C sharp minor [3:40]; 12 in A minor [2:36]
Joaquin MALATS (1872 - 1912)
Serenata andaluza [3:51]
Joaquín TURINA (1882-1949)
Fandanguillo for Guitar, Op. 36 (1926) [4:49]
Albert ROUSSEL (1869 - 1937)
Ségovia, Op. 29 (1925) [2:19]
William WALTON (1902 - 1983)
Five Bagatelles for Guitar (1972) [13:21]
Manuel de FALLA (1876 - 1946)
Homenaje "Le tombeau de Claude Debussy" (1920) [4:15]
El sombrero de tres picos: Miller's Dance "Farruca" (1919) [2:15]
Emilio PUJOL-VILLARRUBI (1886 - 1980)
Guajira for Guitar [4:24]
Joaquín RODRIGO (1901 - 1999)
Invocación y Danza for Guitar "Hommage a M de Falla" (1961) [8:56]
Benjamin BRITTEN (1913 - 1976)
Gloriana: Symphonic Suite, Op 53a (1953) [10:23] ³
Gaspar SANZ (1640 - 1710)
Instrucción de música sobre la guitarra española: (1674) Gallarda [1:23] Canarios [1:18]
Francisco GUERAU (c17)
Poema harmónico: No 4, Villano (1694) [1:24]
Poema harmónico compuesto de varias cifras por el temple de le guitarra española: No 1, Canario (1694) [1:15]
Johann Sebastian BACH (1685-1750)
Trio Sonata for Organ no 1 in E flat major, BWV 525 (1727) [11:34] ²
Dionysio AGUADO (1784 - 1849) 
Rondo brillants (3) for Guitar, Op. 2: No 2 in A minor (1825) [6:11]
Fernando SOR (1778 - 1839)
Variations for Guitar on a theme from Mozart's "Magic Flute", Op. 9 (1843} [8:27]
Luigi BOCCHERINI (1743 - 1805)
Quintet for Guitar and Strings No 4 in D major, G 448: Introduction and Fandango (1798) [5:58] ²
Mauro GIULIANI (1781 - 1829)
Rossiniana for Guitar no 1, Op. 119 (1853) [15:13]
Enrique GRANADOS (1867 - 1916)
Valses poéticos (1887) [12:26]
Malcolm ARNOLD (1921 - 2006)
Concerto for Guitar, Op. 67 – second movement only (1959) [11:30]¹


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