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Julian Bream – Music of Spain
Luis de MILÁN (c.1500-1561)
From El Maestro
Pavana 1 [1.40]; Pavana V [1.25]; Pavana VI [2.14]; Fantasia XX11 [2.41]; Fantasia VIII [3.05]; Fantasia IX [2.04]; Tento I [7.25]; Pavana IV [1.48];Fantasia XVI [3.07]
Luys de NAVÁEZ
From Los seys libros del Delphin de Musica
Book 1 – Fantasia V [2.14]; Book II – Fantasia V [1.11]; Book III – La Cancion del Emperador [3.24]; Book II – Fantasia VI [0.59]; Book V – Arde coracon arde [1.18]; Book V – Ya se asiente el Rey Ramiro [1.57]; Book IV – O gloriosa Domina (seys diferencias) [7.18]; Book VI – Conde claros [2.35]; Book VI – Guardame las vacas [2.49]; Book VI – Tres diferencias por otra parte [2.27]; Book VI – Baxa de contrapunto [1.15] Alonso MUDARRA (c.1510-1580)
Fantasia [2.01]
Fernando SOR (1778-1839)
Fantasie Op.30 [13.40]; Fantasie Op.7 [19.55]; Variations on a Theme by Mozart Op.9 [9.29]
Dionisio AGUADO (1784-1849)
Pieces for Guitar Op.2 [22.01]
Enrique GRANADOS (1867-1916)
Dedicatoria – from Cuentos para la juventud [1.41]; La Maja de Goya (Tonadilla) [4.42]; Danzas españolas for piano Op.37 – Villanesca [6.27]; Danzas españolas for piano Op.37 – Andaluza [4.14]; Valses Poeticos [12.26]
Isaac ALBENIZ (1860-1909)
Mallorca Op.202 [7.16]; Suite Espanola Op.47 [17.23]; Cantos de Espana for piano Op.232 No.4 – Cordoba [7.16]
Francisco TÁRREGA (1852-1909)
Mazurka in G [2.48]; Etude in A [1.57]; Marieta [2.28]; Capricho arabe [5.22]; Prelude in A minor [1.42]; Recuerdos de la Alhambra [3.49]
Joaquin MALATS (1872-1912)
Serenata [3.51]
Emilio PUJOL (1886-1980)
Tango espagnol [3.45]; Guajira [4.23]
Miguel LLOBET (1878-1938)
Canciónes populares catalanas [16.38]
Joaquín TURINA (1882-1949)
Fandanguillo Op.36 [4.50]; Sevillana Op.29 [5.17]; Homanaje a Tarrega Op.69 [4.06]
Alonso MUDARRA (c.1510-1580)
Fantasia XIV [1.56]
Luis de MILÁN (c.1500-1561)
Fantasia XXII [2.27]
Luys de NAVÁEZ
Book III – La Cancion del Emperador [3.24]; Book VI – Conde claros [2.39]
Alonso MUDARRA (c.1510-1580)
Fantasia X [1.50]
Santiago de MURCIA
Prelude and Allegro [2.16]
Luigi BOCCHERINI (1743 - 1805)
Guitar Quintet G448 in D – Fandango [4.22]
Fernando SOR (1778-1839)
Grand Solo Op.14 [10.10]
Dionisio AGUADO (1784-1849)
Rondo Op.2 No.3 in A minor [6.11]
Fernando SOR (1778-1839)
Variations on a Theme by Mozart Op.9 [8.37]; Fantasie Op.7 – Fantasie only [6.51]; Minuet from Sonata Op.25 [2.53]
Joaquin RODRIGO (1901-1999)
Concierto de Aranjuez [21.16]; Tres piezas Españolas [14.26]; Invocation and Dance (Hommage a Manuel de Falla) [8.56]; Fantasia para un gentilhombre [23.19]
Julian Bream (guitar, lute)
The Chamber Orchestra of Europe/John Eliot Gardiner (Concierto de Aranjuez)
RCA Victor Chamber Orchestra/Leo Brouwer (Fantasia para un gentilhombre)
Recorded 1962-84
BMG-RCA RED SEAL 82876 67889-2 [6 CDs: 56.46 + 64.39 + 62.35 + 62.50 + 54.50 + 68.54]


Admirers of the guitarist and lutenist will recognise these recordings from the voluminous RCA Julian Bream Edition. To have a distillation of that magnificent traversal is a pleasure, ranging as it does over a twenty-year plus period and covering the Iberian Baroque and Spanish repertoire. In particular readers will probably remember Bream’s The Guitar in Spain; Guitarra album with its clever and wide-ranging mix of Milán and Rodrigo, Mudarra and Sor, Boccherini (an honorary Iberian in this context) and Narváez.

Bream evokes the sound of the Renaissance guitar in many of these early Spanish works, not least Milán, Mudarra and Narváez – he actually plays lute on the first volume, the only occasion in this six disc set that he does so – before exploring the world of the Baroque guitar and its discernable difference from its predecessor. What remained essentially unchanged in Spanish music was a yen for variational form and this crops up throughout the set.

He evokes the full panoply of elegance and poignancy in the selection from El Maestro. There’s the stately nobility of Fantasia VIII and elsewhere a remarkable control of nuance and colour. In his sequence from Los seys libros del Delphin de Musica – there is at least one example from each book – we can but admire the gravity and control of the Fantasia from Book II , with its telling colouration in the lower strings, just as much as the beautifully timed runs of the Book V Ya se asiente el Rey Ramiro, with “noises off” from the shifts kept to a bare minimum.

Bream takes Sor’s long third movement variations at full value in his three movement Opp. 7, 9 and 30 (it’s a feature of this set that repertoire repetition is kept to a minimum though there is some with Sor). He makes great play of witty caesuri in the rippling opening Largo of the Op.7 Fantasie, vests the opening of the Mozart variations with dramatic arpeggios and does wondrous things with the three Pieces for guitar, an unassuming title if ever there was one, by Dionisio Aguado. In Bream’s hands they have jewel-like brilliance and ornamental colour and in the case of the Introduction and Rondo, a fulsome panoply of virtuosic demands, all of which Bream tosses off seemingly dispassionately.

The third volume is given over to Granados and Albéniz in Bream’s own now famed arrangements.  La Maja de Goya (Tonadilla) is tremendously evocative, laced with the most buoyant of rhythm and constantly ear catching. Then there’s the melancholy veil that hangs over the Villanesca No.4 or, in contrast and despite its name, the extrovert Valses Poeticos with its luscious central panel. It’s enjoyable to hear Andaluza in something other than the Kreisler arrangement for violin and more then exciting to hear how Bream brings out the florid drama of Albéniz’s Cataluña, from the Suite española.

Volume Four brings us some authentic scions of the Spanish guitar school and their allies. The dusky and sinuous Marieta of Tárrega is one of the highlights of this volume though no one will want to miss Recuerdos de la Alhambra.

The fifth volume is closely allied to the first, even down to some duplication. I should add that RCA’s recording documentation is not the easiest to decipher and you will occasionally wonder, as I did, whether a set was recorded in 1964, say, or 1983 and in this context which came first – volume one or five (the answer here is volume one). Here he reprises his elevated skill as an interpreter of the Renaissance Iberian muse but there are also a few surprises, such as the multi-tracked Boccherini. The big Sor Grand Solo is played with enviable command and commanding elegance whilst the constant demands of the Rondo by Aguado are sumptuously met. The Sor Mozart Variations and the Op.7 Fantasie can be judged against the recordings of them on the second volume though one should note that RCA’s documentation leads one to believe that the re-make of Op.7 is here presented in its entirety – whereas only the opening movement is.

Finally we have the Rodrigo disc. Bream made multiple recordings of Concierto de Aranjuez and Fantasia para un Gentilhombre. For the latter he is accompanied by Leo Brouwer, whose concerto he successfully played and recorded (though not here). The stylistic acumen of the playing is self-evident, with tempos for the most part relaxed. In the Concierto he was joined by the then seemingly unlikely figure of John Eliot Gardiner (for his last recording he joined Simon Rattle) and they collaborate in a winningly noble reading, spacious and evocative.

Though the recording locations and dates make for a disparate collection, and though there is some overlap between discs, this is a self-recommending set, especially for those who didn’t collect the RCA Bream Edition. Performances are consistently elevated, the music making revealing of his fluid and technically impeccable command, and the colourful expressivity of his playing lends distinction and interest to everything he plays.

Jonathan Woolf



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