Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
He was born in London. Bream was 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 an 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.
In 1951 he made his debut in the Wigmore Hall in London. After national service, he resumed a busy career, playing around the world, including annual tours in the USA 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 to light music written for the instrument. 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.
Bream's recitals are wide-ranging, from transcriptions from the 17th century, through many pieces by Bach arranged for guitar, popular Spanish pieces, to contemporary music for the guitar, much of which he was the inspiration for. Many composers worked with Bream, and among those who dedicated pieces to him are Malcolm Arnold, Benjamin Britten, Leo Brouwer, Peter Racine Fricker, Hans Werner Henze, Humphrey Searle, Toru Takemitsu, Michael Tippett and William Walton. Britten's Nocturnal is one of the most famous in the repertoire for classical guitar, 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 very successful collaborations, including work with Peter Pears on Elizabethan music for lute and voice, and two beautiful records of guitar duets with John Williams.
The above, with his many radio and television appearances, have made Julian Bream an important ambassador for the classical guitar in the twentieth century and beyond. Despite this, many of his RCA Victor recordings (particularly the ground-breaking series of 20th century guitar music) are out of print - a major source of chagrin to new fans.
A DVD video profile, Julian Bream: My Life In Music, exists which contains three hours of interview and performance. It has been declared by Graham Wade "the finest film contribution ever to the classic guitar."
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