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Reviews: Julian Bream - Popular Classics for Spanish Guitar

Reviews: 3

Review by JW October 14, 2007 (13 of 14 found this review helpful)
Performance:   Sonics:  
Julian Bream (UK, 1933) is widely recognized as one of the top classical guitarists of our time. Personally I was not very familiar with his work and I did a little research on his playing style. It transpires that two of his major influencers were Django Reinhardt and Andres Segovia. Plus he was a virtuoso on the Lute.

You can hear a lot of different instrumental influences in his sound. At times I found it very percussive and crisp on these pieces for Spanish guitar. I also heard harpsichord tones (for example track 3). He uses steel strings here which I do not always prefer just because of the somewhat thin sounding harpsichord-like tones they can produce. On the other hand, the steel strings add their own somewhat eery and ethereal character to the music (listen to the piece from Villa-Lobos - track 6) and listening to this is pretty amazing.

You can be forgiven to think that at times there are two or three guitarists at work. You need to listen to this disc a few times. And than single out a few of the tracks. Listening to the entire disc is almost too much of a good thing. There is so much going on that you won't see the wood for the trees.

For guitar enthusiasts this is a disc to own. Soundwise it's like Julian Bream plays for you, though it appears that he is sitting a few yards away. This album was recorded during November-December, 1962. There is some tape hiss. But the overall tone is clear and full of body and subtle detail.

Jw

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Review by analogue February 23, 2009 (3 of 4 found this review helpful)
Performance:   Sonics:  
For the most part the transfers of RCA living stereo are excellent. But I feel that this particular transfer was not up to their usual standards. Julian Bream is truly a fantastic guitarist so I can't say it's his playing. On my system the sound of this sacd is not very good. For starters there is way to much sound relections from the walls from where it was recorded. It seems they did not control this when it was recorded. And these reflections mix in with the direct sound made from the guitar. It was recorded in a library I believe.
And there seems to be a coldness to the musical event. It's difficult for me to find the words.

I have others Bream albums and they all sound great but this one left me cold.

I also find that the rca transfers are by and large of excellent quality and possess a realism and musicality that is enjoyable. Those ingredients are not to be found on this sacd.

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Review by Fugue December 19, 2010 (3 of 3 found this review helpful)
Performance:   Sonics:
I need to make some corrections to JW's review. He most emphatically did NOT use steel strings! The tension of steel strings would have torn the bridge off his beloved 1957 and 1962 Robert Bouchet guitars! He used nylon, most likely Augustine strings. Yes, his tone is bright, but certainly not metallic, as it would be if he were able (or willing!) to use steel strings. Also, it was recorded Kenwood House in London. The sound is a bit reverberant, but it doesn't obscure details--all of Bream's masterful use of colors comes through very clearly (Steel strings have just one tone, another bit of evidence that he did not use them). His use of dynamics and tone colors, along with elegant phrasing, are what set him apart from most other players. Although he is not a Spaniard, his playing has plenty of soul and he infuses each piece with a great sense of vibrancy or poignancy as needed.

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