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delightful but incomplete tribute
on August 14, 2007
this is an invaluable overview of the life and career of the greatest interpretive guitarist and lutenist of the 20th century. others may have had a mechanically superior technique, but no one has penetrated as far into the spirit of so many musical styles -- the renaissance and modern repertoires in particular. no guitarist should pass up the opportunity to enjoy this historical and personal story.
the narrative is very good on bream's early years, especially regarding his relationship with his father and his transition from home schooled musician to royal academy graduate and wigmore hall debut. after that the chronology becomes hard to follow, and both his recording contracts and his concert career are slighted. as a young man i treasured his early RCA recordings and while a student in europe in 1961 attended four of bream's consecutive continental concerts, and recall with awe the variety in his programs and the consistent brilliance of his playing. however the musical samples do illustrate his performances from the 1960's onward, including a spicy rehearsal session with the bream consort and duets with george malcolm and peter pears. these give a glimpse of his stupendous lute technique.
i was happy to see the glorious pile of an english estate that bream bought in the 1960's and where he lives today and, in the film, narrates much of his life. but there is more footage of his cricket matches than of his wife and children, no mention of musical management or projects such as his "julian bream edition" of guitar works, and as an old man whose dear companion is a dog, his life appears detached from friends and colleagues. but what is here will be dear to every one who grew up in the 60's practicing guitar in emulation of his example.