“The guitar in context…” Happy birthday Mr. Bream

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“The guitar in context…”

In the universe of music the image of the guitar is full of shadows and lights. The shadows are due to the fact that the classical music, in its development, has left the guitar for a long time on the sidelines, the lights are the result of the effervescence and widespread interest that the guitar has provoked in recent times. The section that will be started this month will try to shed light on the shadows and to highlight some of the many facets that the world of the guitar presents today.


Happy birthday Mr. Bream
by Emanuele Segre

Julian BreamOn July 15th, Julian Bream, one of the greatest guitarists of all time, turned 80. Whoever had the honor and the pleasure to listen to one of his concerts in the seventies or eighties can remember their enchantment. After one of his performances you were under the impression that you had heard something unique, thanks to the intensity, the authenticity of the colors and the emotion he managed to transmit to the public. Since his first concert in Cheltenham on the 17th February 1947 at the age of 13, to his last concert in Norwich on the 6th May 2002, Bream has been one of the most important leaders of the renaissance of the classical guitar.

Bream brought the instrument to a different level in many ways. On one hand he gave the classical guitar a larger repertoire, playing pieces written for him. Bream counted on an excellent group of British composers: Benjamin Britten, William Walton, Malcolm Arnold, Lennox Berkeley, Michael Tippett, Richard Rodney Bennett, Alan Rawsthorne, Peter Maxwell Davies, and the German composer Hans Werner Henze, composer of two Sonatas Royal Winter Music, and the Japanese composer Toru Takemistu.

At the same time Bream was the pioneer of the lute revival. For a long time, he divided his concerts between two instruments, the first half on the lute and the second on the guitar.

Bream forged so many important collaborations with other musicians such as duets with the tenor Peter Pears, the guitarist John Williams, the harpsichord player, George Malcom, the actress Peggy Ashcroft, and the concerts of the Julian Bream Consort of Elizabethan music. He also focused on the introduction of repertoires rarely or never played, and on the fresh and innovative interpretation of an already established guitar repertoire.

In the eighties Bream broke his right arm in a car accident. After that, some of his concerts were less accomplished than they used to be, but even so in this last phase of his career he always managed to communicate something we didn’t know, that we hadn’t heard yet – being, the Maestro, ever exploring new programs.

I was so lucky to participate in a master class he held in Liechtenstein in the summer of 1985. I felt a deep emotion when he listened to me play, and I was inspired by his insightful feedback. During his lessons, he often played his guitar. As in his concerts, Bream’s sound always underlined very clearly, razor-sharp, voices and textures of the musical discourse.

Julian Bream’s performances put him at the summit of musical interpretation during the 20th century. His musical insight combined brilliant intensity with a magisterial depth and a full artistic integrity.


Among all the interviews and publications on Julian Bream I suggest:

Tony Palmer, Julian Bream – A Life on the Road, Macdonald & Co.

This autobiography, full of descriptions, is a very sincere and witty one compared to other memoirs by some musicians that tend to be written with an auto-celebrative approach.


Some DVD’s are worth mentioning too:

Julian Bream – My Life in Music (Avie)

One of Bream’s last productions. A long DVD where the musician talks about his career and plays some pieces especially recorded for this video.

Much more material is taken from the archives and previous videos.

¡GUITARRA! A Musical Journey through Spain (KULTUR)

Eight different episodes for Channel 4, devoted to the Spanish repertoire from the 16th to the 20th Century. The pieces of 1500 and 1600 are performed on the instruments for which they were originally written – four course guitar, vihuela and baroque guitar.

Julian Bream Edition (RCA Victor Gold Seal)

28 CD’s that combine almost all of Bream’s recordings.

Among all interviews to Bream, there is one that I find particularly interesting. One can read it in an old issue (N°50, Spring 1982) of the American magazine Guitar Review.


Emanuele SegreEmanuele Segre, the Italian guitarist, whom The Washington Post noted early as “a musician of immense promise” at his American debut, performs internationally in cities including New York, Los Angeles, Boston, San Francisco, London, Paris, Amsterdam, Vienna, Prague, Berlin, Salzburg, Tel Aviv, Istanbul, Rio de Janeiro, Madrid, Rome, Warsaw, Seoul, Tokyo, etc.
As a soloist he has appeared with Yuri Bashmet and the Moscow Soloists, the English Chamber Orchestra conducted by Salvatore Accardo, the Rotterdam Philharmonic Orchestra, the Zagreb’s Soloists, the European Community Chamber Orchestra, the Slovakian Chamber Orchestra and the Süddeutsches Kammerorchester. He has also given his cooperation to the Orchestra of Teatro alla Scala. His chamber music activities include duo performances with Patrick Gallois.
He has participated in international festivals such as the Marlboro Festival (USA), the Bratislava Festival (Czechoslovakia), the “Semaines Musicales de Tours”, the “Festival de Radio France et Montpellier” (France), the Bregenz Festival (Austria), the “MITO SettembreMusica” International Festival, and the “Settimane Musicali Internazionali di Stresa” (Italy).
Segre has won numerous competitions, including the East & West Artists Prize in New York in 1987, which allowed him to make his debut at the Carnegie Recital Hall, and, in the same year, the Pro Musicis International Award in New York. In 1989 he was selected for the UNESCO International Rostrum of Young Performers.
Jean Françaix dedicated his concerto for guitar and orchestra to Segre, which he subsequently recorded for WERGO.
He has recorded various other CDs with DELOS, CLAVES, AMADEUS and other record companies.
Born in 1965, Segre studied under Ruggero Chiesa at the Milan Conservatory, and took his diploma with great distinction, “summa cum laude”. He has attended Master Classes by Julian Bream and John Williams, as well as pursued studies in composition and violin.
Emanuele Segre is currently teaching at the Conservatory of music in Terni, Italy.
For further information regarding Emanuele Segre, please visit his website:

Autore: Emanuele Segre

Emanuele Segre ha scritto 4 articoli.

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