Julian Bream - Guitar Recital
The last time I heard Julian Bream live was in Australia in the late ’80s. Following a break in the programme a member of the audience yelled out, in true ocker fashion, ‘Stairway to Heaven!’ Seemingly offended, Bream said ‘I beg your pardon?’ before breaking into a grin. It’s just this sense of mock-seriousness that makes the spectacularly witty performance (by Bream and his old sparring partner John Williams) of the Duo in A by Schubert (Bream’s transcription of the String Quartet, D173, for two guitars) such a delight and worth the price of this disc alone. As on their previous ‘Together’ albums for RCA, both guitarists manage to reconcile their very different styles to deliver the musical goods in abundance. Not that there aren’t many other reasons for this new collection of previously unavailable BBC recordings to be considered an essential purchase.
Like the 1956 studio recording of a youthful Bream working himself into a frenzy with Turina’s Sonata. Or the first broadcast performance of Tippett’s The Blue Guitar, a piece never commercially recorded by Bream and here receiving a reading notable for the range of hues employed – worthy of both Wallace Stevens and Picasso. Then there’s a 1975 performance of the Bach Chaconne, the architecture beautifully explicated, the delivery replete with rhetorical flourishes albeit lacking the rhythmic subtlety of Bream’s 1994 EMI recording. And the only recording on the disc before a live audience, Fernando Sor’s variations on Mozart’s ‘O cara armonia’, shows Bream at his spontaneous best, exhibiting the same wit and sparkle present in the Schubert. Add to all this a booklet containing a recent interview with Bream wherein he discusses each item in the programme and you have one of Testament’s finest releases to date.