Bach, Sor, Turina, Tippett & Schubert

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COMPOSERS: Bach,Sor,Tippett & Schubert,Turina
LABELS: Testament
ALBUM TITLE: Julian Bream Guitar Recital
WORKS: Works by Bach, Sor, Turina, Tippett & Schubert
PERFORMER: Julian Bream, John Williams (guitar)
CATALOGUE NO: SBT 1333
Since Bream retired from public performing three years ago he has kept busy with his memoirs – a tasty prospect – and taken time out to trawl his broadcast archive for this equally appetising collection. Track dates range from 1956 to 1985, the earliest showing off the 23-year-old player’s unusually flamboyant and impulsive way with a concise sonata by Turina. The more familiar, focused and distilled style of his maturity dominates the programme, which starts by borrowing Bach’s D minor violin Chaconne. It has to go steadily, so that the guitar can get round the fastest figuration, but Bream gives it an imaginative variety of timbre and a concentrated, gradual build of intensity three times over.

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The recital’s centrepiece is the broadcast première of Tippett’s The Blue Guitar. Bream, who advised on its composition and is its dedicatee, never got round to recording it commercially, but proves to have handled its quirks and non-sequiturs and startling moments of beauty with an ease and confidence rare in others’ performances even now.

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His own two-guitar transcription of an early Schubert quartet shows off some ingenious imitations of lower-string pizzicato and gives plenty of opportunities for lively interplay in what was the last-ever recording by Bream and Williams together. Sound styles vary but are collectively a credit to the BBC balance engineers of the time, all listed as ‘unknown’. Robert Maycock