Sunday, 16 May 2010

Sunday Morning Coffee with Julian Bream

After last week’s sojourn into jazz I take my first steps into classical music but into an area some might find surprising.  Rather than featuring piano or violin led orchestral music I have gone for the much more restrained classical guitar.


Remember, boil the kettle, make your coffee, sit back, relax and enjoy world-class playing.

Julian Bream was born into music (1933), his father being a jazz guitarist.  Wikipedia describes him as

“a British classical guitarist and lutenist and is one of the most distinguished classical guitarists of the 20th century. He has also been successful in renewing popular interest in the Renaissance lute.”

That’s a new word to me “lutenist”.

First up is a duet with another British classical guitarist, John Williams.

Suite for Two Guitars                                      William Lawes

Even to my untutored ear this has a very early feel to it and, if I have the correct William Lawes (1603 – 1645), we are looking at this piece being written in the early-to-mid 1600’s.

This piece has the qualities I love about classical guitar: absolute clarity, simplicity of, and fragility of, sound.  It’s almost as though were I to turn away the sound would fade.


I hadn’t known that Bream was considered a child prodigy.  He studied piano and cello at the Royal Academy but, with his father’s background, guitar couldn’t have been far away.


We move onto our second piece with

Mallorca op.202 in F# minor                        Isaac Albéniz

According to the video, this was written for piano in 1890 and transcribed for the classical guitar by Andrés Segovia.

The highest rated comment to this video says,

“Thanks so much I have been looking for this recording of Mallorca for so long, this one is the best, his tone is soothing throughout it, played with finesse, just goes together so smoothly”

I must admit I wondered about including this but this touched me in a way I can’t describe and ”in” it had to be.


I don’t know if I have included his most famous pieces: I didn’t consult any list other than YouTube’s search results.  I listened and listened until I found those pieces which were clearly for me and then I selected from this sub-group. 

I should also add that I don’t have the vocabulary to describe accurately how I feel about the music.  I will do my best though.  I hope it makes sense to you.


Two greats come together now to play music by a third great!

Enjoy Julian and Stephane Grapelli playing Django Reinhardt.

Nuages                                                        Django Reinhardt

Perfection in jazz.  Perhaps I can move beyond the 1920’s!

Did you see how much they admired the other’s artistry?


Concierto de Aranjuez                             Joaquin Rodrigo

This is my one concession to the guitar in an orchestral setting.

This concerto is in 2 parts.  You can listen to Part 2 here.  The second part is, I think, the better known but I preferred Part 1.  No words, just did.

If you want to read more about this concerto then visit here.


I was surprised to see that Julian is 77.  He has always seemed to me to be the same age: balding, intense but totally with his music.

Another comment read,

“To me Julian was never really a guitarist... he was someone who happened to choose this instrument to interpret music with... he would have been great on any instrument...”

Who am I to argue.


The second half of the show starts with a coffee top-up.  That’s what I’m doing right now.

A very short piece: just under 2 minutes but packed with magic.

Study in A Major                                        Francisco Tarrega

I have no idea what feelings are behind this but I find it very uplifting, almost spiritual but not in any anthemic way.  Am I being a pseud here?  I hope not!  It’s as though a small child is being guided very carefully and gently to God. 

I suppose all that matters is what the music does for me.  LOTS!


Serenata Espanola  

                        Joaquin Malats (transcribed by F Tarrega)

I’m lost for words here other than I love this for its “colour”.

Perhaps you can do better!


Oh no!  Time is running out.  Only 2 to go but ….. they’re good!

Firstly, we go back to another Bream / Williams duet.

Clair de Lune                                                  Claude Debussy

I’m swept away on a wave to ….. heaven!  Absolutely gorgeous.


I always get to this point and realise I haven’t written as much as I had planned about the featured artist.  I get so carried away by the music – and this week is no exception – that I have to push on with the next piece.


This piece I kept deliberately for the finish because I can think of no better way of saying thank you to you for listening and to Julian for opening my ears.

Gavotte Choro  from Suite Populaire Bresilienne


You can click on “replay” if you want.  I did!  I find it unbelievable that this video has had so few views.

I hear

Everything is all right. 
You can go home now!
Love is waiting there for you,
Love is waiting there for you!


Well, that’s it for another week. I’ve had enormous fun putting the show together. Magical!!  I hope you enjoyed your coffee and the music.   Tune in again next week and thanks for listening.


  1. Saturday Evening French Wine with Julian Bream: Splendid Concert! I replayed each piece. Clair de Lune: 3 times. A very perceptive interpretation. So much better than what I do on the piano. Debussy would love them. Did you notice Julian couldn't let go of his guitar at the end? His fingers just stayed on it, like a man in love!

    You were right about the Concerto part 2. It lacks the warmth of part1. And the video showed too many sceneries, not enough views of Julian with the orchestra.

    You are also right about the Villa Lobos. It deserves to be heard twice. Even more. The music is cheerful, and it's played so clearly.

    Many thanks. Time for bed. A great day to you, Calum.

  2. .... and to you too, Claudia. Many thanks for your lovely words.

  3. Claudia I just noticed what you mentioned about Julian in Claire de Lune

    "Did you notice Julian couldn't let go of his guitar at the end? His fingers just stayed on it, like a man in love!"

    Thank you.

  4. Another 5-star sunday morning
    What a great way to start the day..

    The more well known piece by Tarrega is 'Recuerdos de la Alhambra', a busker's favourite
    Here is Julian Bream pretending to be a busker in the Palace of the Alhambra-

    (playing it too slowly for me but he is taking it at the same pace as Andres Segovia so who am I to argue)

  5. Oh, JD, you have excelled yourself with that link to "Recuerdos de la Alhambra".

    Exceptional and hugely moving.


  6. Grapelli and Reinhardt are sufficient accolades for Bream, if he'd ever needed them.

    The early piece was nice - it was a different feel at that time.

  7. I find it unbelievable that this video has had so few views.

    That's esoteric talent for you. The last piece was superb.

  8. James Thanks again. It's great that readers seem to enjoy the weekly show.

  9. A seductive selection, CalumCarr. The Bream and Williams Masterclass charms the listener into thinking piano pieces were written as an afterthought.

    Aah, Clair de lune - exquisitely purloined and poured into a bottle. I am sure the great man would approve.

  10. Truly enjoyed JD's addition on this quiet Sunday afternoon. Julian plays as if he has all the time in the world. Slowly, with contentment, and a full heart... Very moving!

  11. MTG

    Welcome! Your first comment here - thank you - and such a brilliant one. I love your turn of phrase.

    Pop over any time.

    You probably guessed that Sunday Morning Coffee is available every Sunday

  12. Claudia and JD

    I listened to other versions of "Recuerdos de la Alhambra" and I think the pace of Bream is just perfect.