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Popular Classics for Spanish Guitar
Heitor VILLA-LOBOS (1887-1959)
Chôros No.1 (arr. Garcia) [4:54]
Étude in E minor [4:10]
Federico Moreno TORROBA (1891-1982)
Madroños [3:00]
Joaquín TURINA (1882-1949)
from Homenaje a Tárrega
Garrotín [2:09]
Soleares [2:00]
Heitor VILLA-LOBOS (1887-1959)
Prelude in E minor [3:12]
Isaac ALBÉNIZ (1860-1909)
From Suite española, Op.47
Granada (arr. Bream) [5:21]
Leyenda (Asturias) [5:56]
Manuel DE FALLA (1876-1946)
Homenaje ‘Le tombeau de Claude Debussy’ [4:15]
TRADITIONAL: arr. Miguel LLOBET (1878-1938)
Canciones populares catalanas: El testament d’Amelia [2:13]
Joaquín TURINA (1882-1949)
Fandanguillo [5:14]
Julian Bream (guitar)
rec. November-December 1962, The Library, Kenwood House, London.
BMG RCA RED SEAL LIVING STEREO SACD 88697 04606 2 [42:27]

 


There are many good guitarists around at present; it is salutary to be reminded what a great one sounds like – assuming that, like me, one had been listening to Julian Bream too little of late.

For all the paucity of its playing time, this is a thoroughly recommendable, vividly recorded, CD on which one can hear Bream at something like his dazzling, sensitive best. Bream played across virtually the entire range of the then available guitar repertoire – from Elizabethan lute music to concertos such as those by Rodrigo and Villa-Lobos, as well as a substantial body of work written specially for him, including compositions by Arnold, Britten, Walton, Rawsthorne, Henze, Maxwell Davies, Leo Brower and Toru Takemitsu! Given this enormous range, and how well Bream interpreted music right across this range, it is probably too much of a simplification to say that it was in Spanish music that Bream could be heard at his very best – yet it is true that the Spanish repertoire remained, for all kinds of obvious historical reasons, central to his work, maybe even closest to his heart, and that it often brought out the best in him. His affinity with the idioms of the Spanish traditions is everywhere evident on this reissued LP.

Particular highlights include Torroba’s lovely ‘Madroños’, played with great vivacity and absolutely redolent of Spanish romanticism, the basically simple melody richly and skilfully harmonised by the composer and interpreted with great, but unpretentious, eloquence by Bream. The results are delightfully infectious. The excerpts from Turina’s 1932 ‘Homenaje a Tárrega’, written in tribute to Francisco Tárrega y Eixea (1854-1909), composer, guitarist and teacher, are full of echoes from the flamenco tradition, but Bream resists any temptation to overstate these – not a temptation always resisted by guitarists playing this piece. One of Tárrega’s pupils was Miguel Llobet and Bream is equally impressive in Llobet’s arrangement of a lovely, slowly lilting Catalan song, ‘El testament d’Amelia’, exquisitely cadenced and played with unexaggerated expressiveness. It is that resistance to the vulgarisation of passionate and expressive music that perhaps most characterises Bream’s playing in this recital, not least in the performance of Turina’s ‘Fandanguillo’ which closes it, a ravishing piece of unflashy virtuosity, the control of tempo and dynamics, the elegance of the phrasing, wonderful to hear.

I suppose Villa-Lobos can only be said to belong to the Spanish tradition in a rather loose sense, but given the utterly persuasive advocacy which Bream brings to the pieces by him which are included in this recital, any quibbling would be mean-spirited pedantry.

In short, a demonstration of unostentatious mastery by one of the great guitarists. Any lover of the instrument who doesn’t already own one of the previous incarnations of this recital should hurry to acquire it now.

Glyn Pursglove


 


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