1947 Andrès Segovia was at the zenith of his career and the
classical guitar dominated by the Spanish-speaking world. In
that same year Julian Bream, a young fourteen year-old Englishman,
gave his debut recital. Few could have predicted that forty
years later, when Segovia
died, many would regard him as a successor.
unpredictable was that in the same intervening period Spain, the revered bastion of classical guitar construction, would become
progressively supplanted by a former British penal colony as
a viable alternative source of instruments. Today Australian-made
guitars enjoy a reputation second to none.
featuring guitarist Julian Bream, is a suite of films presenting
the history of the guitar in Spain.
There are eight movements, each constituting a 25-minute film.
The production is divided into two DVDs, each of four movements;
each four-movement segment represents about 103 minutes of viewing.
Only one work, the three-movement
Concierto de Aranjuez by Rodrigo,
is presented in totality. The vast
majority of the other items are solos
from the guitar repertory. Exceptions
include the two-part Introduction
and Rondo by Aguado that is truncated
to only the Rondo. The three-movement
Sonatina in A major by Torroba receives
similar treatment with only the first
movement appearing. Segovia also treated the
first movement as a solo in his early
vast majority of the material has made past appearances in diverse
formats and presentations; included is a release of the same
name by ‘Kultur’ that appears to contain identical material.
Bream is 72 years old and it is indeed fortunate that all this
wonderful material has been preserved and is available in such
an accessible and user-friendly format.
is a very colourful and charismatic individual, be it in his
attire, gesticulations, or facial expressions during recitals.
His unique style of commentary is both expressive and entertaining
particularly because it is spontaneous rather than read verbatim.
In all suites much of the commentary is by Bream, and conveys
not only his deep understanding of the music but also extensive
knowledge of all germane historical intelligence.
the many memorable impressions one gains, a sense of his profound
insight, understanding and intimate familiarity with the music
is predominant. Nobody plays this music like Julian Bream; his
uniqueness is unequivocal and undisputed.
the 206 minutes of gems it is challenging to single out any
one highlight because magic emerges in every suite. Occasionally,
be it in live performance or during recording, a musician produces
magic which excels all past renditions including his own. For
this writer such an occasion occurs in the Rondo from ‘Introduction
and Rondo’ by Aguado. Both in his commentary and exemplified
in performance, Bream indicates affinity for this rather technically
challenging work. The musicianship and technical command demonstrated
in this particular rendition can only be described as magnificent
and transcending all others available, including his recorded
version on RCA PL 14033.
most entertaining section is that in which Bream, via some technical
manipulation, is presented playing the Fandango from Boccherini’s
Guitar Quintet in D major (G 448) as a duet with himself.
guitar is a very important aspect of the guitar in Spain, and Bream explains that although related, it is another very different
genre and one with which he has little practical familiarity.
To fill this void Paco Peña is employed in suite four to demonstrate
and explain the art of flamenco guitar playing, not only as
the solo instrument into which it has evolved, but also as an
important accompaniment to singers and dancers. It is obvious
that Bream holds Peña in high regard. It may be more than coincidental
that John Williams also involved Peña in the latter commentary
section of his ‘Concert in Seville’ video production.
the earlier suites Bream plays four-course guitar, vihuela and
baroque guitar demonstrating musicianship that is totally independent
of any instrument. He is indeed fortunate to have access to
such high quality period instruments through association with
luthier Jose Romanillos who also made the guitars used in this
familiar with the guitar will recognise many unidentified scenes
such as in the workshop of luthier Manuel Contreras.
of editorial attention has resulted in Bream being shown in
photographs, both in the accompanying booklet and on the cover
of the presentation, as left-handed which of course he is not.
is a very educational, entertaining and significant production
on the history of the guitar in Spain.
Sight and sound become synergistic partners, titillating the
senses far beyond the individual capabilities of either.
is highly recommended viewing, and a fine tribute to a great