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Julian Bream Ultimate Guitar Collection
Mateo Albeniz, Francis Cutting, John Dowland
Julian Bream Ultimate Guitar Collection
Genres: Dance & Electronic, Special Interest, Classical
 
  •  Track Listings (18) - Disc #1
  •  Track Listings (14) - Disc #2


      
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CD Reviews

One well worth the price of two
Richard Christie | NZ | 09/25/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)

"This two cd set is an odd juxtaposition. The first cd consists of a sampler of Bream's career output - but without (and I believe the omission is disgraceful) any acknowledgement of Bream's significant contribution toward the creation of a truly 20th century concert repertoire for guitar. The second cd is a re-release of his superb early 1980's recording of Albeniz and Granados transcriptions with the added bonus of a sublime interpretation of the "Three Spanish Pieces" by J Rodrigo.

Speaking as a musician I find the selections and the production of the first cd problematic. We get a few of the more lightweight examples of renaissance lute and baroque guitar (but no JS Bach and no (solo) baroque lute work); we get no vihuela repertoire and nothing truly representative of classical period composition. We do have all six movements from two contrasting concertos but the remainder of the cd consists mostly of neo-romantic repertoire from the twentieth century. In addition the recording quality is highly variable; for example one of the Villa Lobos pieces sounds as though it was recorded in an indoor swimming complex. Given the cd's title more care should have been taken to better represent Bream's career and musical diversity. In the opinion of one familiar with Bream's output this is a disappointing selection. Well played but not representative of the artist nor the art form.

However the opposite is the case with the second cd. These recordings were made at a time when Bream set out to commit to (then) vinyl, via the guitar, the musical heritage of Spain. Bream here was at the height of his interpretive power - and a fine film documentary also resulted from this endeavour.

The inclusion of the Rodrigo set makes this cd a better buy than the original Albeniz and Granados recording, although those who find this compilation rewarding might perhaps profit from researching Bream's catalogue, and adding the complete recording from which the Rodrigo is sourced (circa 1980-90) to their collection.

As for the Albeniz and Granados Bream offers his own transcriptions. These tread a fine line between fidelity to the piano scores and Bream's concept of what works on the guitar. As a general observation Bream seeks to include significantly more of the original score's textures than do many of his peers (e.g. J Williams, P Romero). At the same time he is not averse to significantly modifying the original (e.g. amongst others 'Granada' and 'Cordoba'). Such a process is part of any transcription but here the results are not only excellent but also personal to Bream, as a result we have further confirmation of the craft of a great performing artist.

Every listener will discover their own favourites and I have more than space allows me to relate. I believe that Bream brings more expression to his performances of the Valses Poeticos by Granados than any other guitarist I have heard, and the Passacaglia by Rodrigo is played with such a sense of a brooding menace that my spine tingles every time I listen to it.

The second cd alone is worth twice the compilation's asking price.

"
Not "Ultimate", but Wonderful!
D. Reinstein | Fairfax, CA USA | 03/29/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)

"
As good a guitarist as Julian Bream is, one must begin by acknowledging that the title of this 2-CD set containing 32 admittedly seminal pieces written for hand-played strings ( primarily, the lute) is a tad hyperbolistic. An "Ultimate" collection of anything would have to be more complete, by definition, than any two CDs can be and, again, it almost goes without saying that no two people are apt to be in total agreement about what should or should not have been included in any such collection. All caveats considered and aside, this is, indeed, a thoughtfully selected and masterfully performed collection of what is, unarguably, some of the very best classical pieces ever written for the lute. Bream plays some of them on the guitar and others on a renaissance lute - the latter giving a somewhat truer indication of the stylings and musical nuances intended by the various composers. But, even the pieces he plays on the guitar - an instrument that, in it's current form, did not exist when many of the pieces were originally composed - are sensitive and lyrical interpretations that sound as if they MIGHT have been composed for the guitar.

Without spending space here reiterating the specific pieces, their titles and lengths, I will simply list the composers whose works Bream presents so nicely in this collection. They span a range of about five centuries beginning in the time of England's Elizabeth I and spanning the years through to the 20th Century's premier Spanish and Brazilian classical guitar composers. The list reads like a `Whose Who" of classical plucked-string instrument music and of composers whose keyboard compositions work particularly well on the strings of a lute or guitar, and includes;
- John Dowland
- Francis Cutting
- Antonio Vivaldi
- Gaspar Sanz (*)
- Mateo Albeniz (*)
- Manuel de Falla
- Enrique Granados (*)
- Hector Villa-Lobos, and
- Joaquin Rodrigo
(*) = Pieces originally written for keyboard play.

Every classical guitarist has his own recognizable style and approach to the instrument and the material. An experience listener would not confuse Bream's work with that of Andres Segovia, for example: but it is not that one is better than the other. Each, in his own distinctive way, is simply superb. Though the Spanish influence is clearly audible with both musicians, Bream's stylings have a more contemporary lilt and inflection than do those of Segovia; he makes each piece his own. One suspects that each time he plays a piece it comes out differently according to the moment, his mood, the instrument and God knows what else. Segovia, on the other hand, was well known for his constancy once he had found a version of each piece that fully suited his own ear and temperament.
While I am admittedly a Segovia fan, I find Bream's renditions to be noticeably fresher and each infused with an aura of presence in the here-and-now which I find especially enjoyable.

The collection is neither complete not `ultimate', but it is VERY good and well worth having in any collection of classical guitar music. In fact, for audiophiles not familiar with this genre, it is a fair place to begin to develop an ear for and a listener's knowledge of and experience with the classical guitar.

I recommend it highly."
BREAM is Brilliant!
Michael Gannon | Westchester County, NY | 04/23/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)

"This CD and it's counterpart is essential to any classical guitar enthusiast's collection. A great assemblage of beautiful guitar masterpieces performed brilliantly by one of the greatest guitar masters of our time."