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The Magic of Julian Bream

While we are working, attending class, and doing so many other things from home, our blog posts will focus on materials that have been digitized and can be accessed remotely. We’ll continue to include links to our finding aids and other information about physical access, as well. To assist you during the COVID-19 crisis, fees for PDF scans for all users will be waived. Working and attending class from home can present a number of challenges and we are here to help!  

Some Peek in the Stacks blog posts are authored by CSUN students who work in Special Collections and Archives in the Oviatt Library. This week's post was written by Brenton Contreras, a graduate student working in the International Guitar Research Archives (IGRA), and IGRA fellow for the 2020-21 academic year. 

Album cover, Popular Classics for Spanish GuitarLegendary classical guitarist Julian Bream passed away at the age of 87 on August 14, 2020. Bream was a lover of all music, and he surrounded himself within the sonic landscapes of every musical era, going back as far as the music of 15th-century lutenists.

The IGRA Guitar Research Archives Discography Collection contains an immense collection of phonograph recordings. These recordings are a valuable resource for any music researcher, performer, teacher or student looking to gain a deeper understanding and appreciation of performed music, including sixty-five phonograph Bream recordings held across three collections: the John Tanno Collection, the Ron C. Purcell Collection and the Joseph Smith Collection.

Those looking to absorb the music of the Renaissance might enjoy exploring some of the recordings, such as Dances of Dowland and The Golden Age of English Lute Music, which demonstrate the brilliance of Renaissance lutenists and Bream’s masterful interpretation of their compositions. If chamber or orchestral music from this era is more entertaining to you might want to check out The Julian Bream Consort, John Downland Ayres for Four Voices, and Concertos for Lute and Orchestra. These few recordings represent an astonishing sample of Renaissance music performed by a masterful musician.

Bream, who was no stranger to the superb modern music written for guitar, passionately explored and recorded the compositions he encountered during his life. Throughout his career, Bream made a determined effort to get new music written for the guitar, and he was ultimately very successful in this endeavor. Some very prominent composers chose to write beautiful and complex music for this equally beautiful and complex instrument. Most notably, two concertos composed by Lennox Berkeley and Malcom Arnold, Fives Bagatelles by William Walton and the masterful Nocturnal after John Downland composed by Benjamin Britten were all specifically written for Julian Bream. All of these compositions have pushed the trajectory of the classical guitar forward and into new realms.

Each of these masterpieces and countless others can all be found within the IGRA Discography Collection, which can be digitized upon request. So please feel free to take a peek into the archives to see what Julian Bream has brought to the world and how he has changed the path of the classical guitar for generations to come.

Julian Bream, 20th Century Guitar, 1967. John Tanno Collection
A Bach Recital for the Guitar. Ron C. Purcell Collection
Julian Bream and his Friends. Ron C. Purcell Collection
Julian Bream, Baroque Guitar, 1971. John Tanno Collection
Julian Bream Plays Villa Lobos, 1971. John Tanno Collection
Guitar Concertos, 1961. John Tanno Collection

Read more Peek in the Stacks blog entries