Julian Bream

Julian Bream

Bream, Julian (Julian Alexander Bream), 1933-, English guitarist and lutenist. Bream was first taught guitar by his father and studied piano and cello at the Royal College of Music. He made his debut at the age of 12. During the 1950s and 60s he led the the Julian Bream Consort, a pioneering period-instrument ensemble. An outstanding performer, Bream had a repertory ranging from Dowland to Henze, and many compositions were written expressly for him, e.g., Benjamin Britten's Nocturnal (1963). He retired in 2002.

See P. Balmer, dir., Julian Bream: My Life in Music (documentary film, 2003).

Julian Bream O.B.E. (born July 15, 1933) is an internationally celebrated British guitarist and lutenist, widely recognized as one of the most important classical guitarists of the 20th century. He has also been successful in renewing popular interest in the Renaissance lute.


Bream was born in London and brought up in a very musical environment. His father played jazz guitar and the young Bream was impressed by hearing the playing of Django Reinhardt. He was encouraged to play the piano but also the guitar (though using a plectrum). On his 11th birthday, Bream was given a classical guitar by his father. He became something of a child prodigy, at 12 winning a junior exhibition award for his piano playing, enabling him to study piano and cello at the Royal College of Music. He made his debut guitar recital at Cheltenham in 1947, aged 13.

After national service he resumed a busy career playing around the world, including annual tours in the U.S. and Europe for several years. He played part of a recital at the Wigmore Hall on the lute in 1952 and since has done much to bring music written for the instrument to light. 1960 saw the formation of the Julian Bream Consort, a period-instrument ensemble with Bream as lutenist. The consort led a great revival of interest in the music of the Elizabethan era. His first European tours took place in 1954 and 1955, and were followed by extensive touring in North America (beginning in 1958), the Far East, India, Australia, the Pacific Islands and other parts of the world.

Bream has recorded extensively for RCA and EMI Classics. These recordings have won him several awards, including four Grammy Awards, two for Best Chamber Music Performance and two for Best Classical Performance. RCA also released The Ultimate Guitar Collection, a multi-CD set commemorating his birthday in 1993.

In 1984 Bream’s arm was seriously injured in a car accident. It cost him great effort to regain his previous technical ability.

Bream's recitals are wide-ranging, including transcriptions from the 17th century, many pieces by Johann Sebastian Bach arranged for guitar, popular Spanish pieces, and contemporary music, much for which he was the inspiration. He has stated that he has been influenced by the styles of Andrés Segovia and Francisco Tárrega.

Many composers have worked with Bream, and among those who dedicated pieces to him are Malcolm Arnold, Richard Rodney Bennett, Benjamin Britten, Leo Brouwer, Peter Racine Fricker, Hans Werner Henze, Humphrey Searle, Tōru Takemitsu, Michael Tippett and William Walton. Britten's Nocturnal is one of the most famous pieces in the classical guitar repertoire and was written with Bream specifically in mind. It is an unusual set of variations on John Dowland's Come Heavy Sleep (which is played in its original form at the close of the piece).

Bream has also taken part in many collaborations, including work with Peter Pears on Elizabethan music for lute and voice, and three records of guitar duets with John Williams.

Bream's playing can be characterized as virtuosic and highly expressive, with an eye for details, and with strong use of contrasting timbres.

The above, along with his many radio and television appearances, have made Bream an important ambassador for the classical guitar. Despite his importance, many of his RCA Records recordings (including the series of 20th century guitar music) are out of print.

The 2003 DVD video profile Julian Bream: My Life In Music contains three hours of interview and performance. It has been declared by Graham Wade "the finest film contribution ever to the classic guitar." His series Guitarra! was made for British television and charts a journey across Spain.

Bream has stated that even though he had some 'sessions' with Segovia, he never really studied with him — Bream also does not exclusively hold his right-hand fingers at right angles to the strings, but has stated that he uses a less rigid hand position for reasons of tonal variety.

Bream has for over 40 years lived in a Georgian farmhouse at Semley in Wiltshire .

Pieces written for Julian Bream (in chronological order)

Awards and Recognitions (incomplete)

Partial discography


  • 20th Century Guitar, RCA LSC-2964
  • 70's, RCA ARL 0049
  • Dedication, RCA ARL 5034
  • A Bach Recital for the Guitar, Westminster CLP 1929
  • Baroque Guitar (1966), RCA
  • Collection of the Greatest Performances of Julian Bream, Vol. II, Westminster
  • Concertos for Lute and Orchestra, RCA ARL1-1180
  • Dances of Dowland, RCA LSC-2987
  • Elizabethan Lute Songs, RCA LSC-3131
  • Elizabethan Music by The Julian Bream Consort, RCA LSC-3195
  • The Golden Age of English Lute Music, RCA LSC-3196
  • Julian & John, RCA
  • Julian Breams Greatest Hits, Westminster
  • Julian Breams Greatest Hits Volume Two, Westminster 9008-8185
  • Lute Music of John Dowland, RCA ARL1-1491
  • Music for Voice and Guitar with Peter Pears, RCA LSC-2718
  • Popular Classics for Spanish Guitar, RCA
  • Rodrigo: Concerto De Aranjuez, Berkeley Guitar Concerto (1975), RCA
  • Sonatas for Lute and Harpsichord—Bach, Vivaldi with George Malcolm, RCA LSC-3100
  • Villa-Lobos, Twelve Etudes for Guitar, Suite populaire bresillienne (1978), RCA
  • The Woods So Wild, RCA LSC-3331


  • Fret Works (1990), MCA
  • Guitarra: The Guitar in Spain (1990), RCA
  • Joaquin Rodrigo: Concerto Elegiaco/Fantasia Para Un Gentilhombre (1990), RCA
  • Julian Bream plays Bach (1990), RCA
  • Julian Bream Plays Granados & Albéniz (Music of Spain, Volume Five) (1990), RCA
  • Music of Spain, Vol. 7 (1990), RCA
  • Two Loves with Peggy Ashcroft (1990), RCA
  • Baroque Guitar (1991), RCA
  • La Guitarra Romantica (1991), RCA
  • Rodrigo: Concierto de Aranjuez; Villa-Lobos: Preludes (1991), RCA
  • Romantic Guitar (1991), RCA
  • Baroque Guitar (1993), RCA
  • A Celebration Of Andrés Segovia—Bream (1993), RCA
  • Highlights from the Julian Bream Edition (1993), RCA
  • Rodrigo: Concierto de Aranjuez; Fantasía para un gentilhombre No1-5 (1993), RCA
  • Rodrigo: Concierto de Aranjuez; Takemitsu: To the Edge of Dream with Simon Rattle and the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra (1993), Capitol
  • Together/Julian Bream & John Williams (1993), RCA
  • Together Again/ Julian Bream & John Williams (1993), RCA
  • Villa-Lobos: Guitar Concerto; Preludes; Etudes with André Previn and the London Symphony Orchestra (1993), BMG International
  • Bach Guitar Recital (1994), EMI Classics
  • Bach: Lute Suites, Trio Sonatas (1994), RCA
  • Guitar Concertos (1994), RCA
  • Julian Bream Consort, Vol. 6 (1994), RCA
  • Music of Spain (1994), RCA
  • Popular Classics for Spanish Guitar (1994), RCA
  • Romantic Guitar (1994), RCA
  • Sonata (1995), Angel
  • 20th Century Guitar I (1996), RCA
  • The Golden Age of English Lute Music (1996), RCA
  • Music for Voice & Guitar (1996), RCA
  • Music of Spain: Milán, Narváez (1996), RCA
  • Popular Classics for the Spanish Guitar (1997), RCA
  • Julian Bream Edition, Volume 1: The Golden Age of English Lute Music (28 CDs) (1998), RCA
  • The Romantic Hours (1998), RCA
  • Spain—Sor, Vol. 24 (1998), BMG Classics
  • Guitar Concertos (1999), RCA
  • Guitar Music by Albeniz, Vivaldi, Rodrigo & Grandos (2 CDs) (1999), RCA Classics/BMG
  • Woods So Wild (1999), RCA
  • Nocturnal: Martin, Britten, Brouwer, Lutoslavski (2000), EMI
  • The Ultimate Guitar Collection (2 CDs) (2000), RCA
  • Duos de Guitares with John Williams (2001), RCA
  • Spanish Guitar Music (remastered) (2001), Deutsche Grammophon
  • Spanish Guitar Recital (2001), RCA
  • Rodrigo: Concierto de Aranjuez; Fantasía para un gentilhombre; Tres piezas espanolas; invocacion y danza (remastered) (2004), RCA
  • Spanish Guitar Recital (2004),
  • Guitar Recital: Bach, Sor, Turina, Tippet, Schubert (2005), Testament
  • Music of Spain (2005), RCA
  • Elizabethan Lute Songs, Decca
  • Julian Bream & Friends, Musical Heritage Society
  • Lute Music from the Royal Courts of Europe, BMG Classics
  • Music of Spain: The Classical Heritage, RCA


External links

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