Julian Bream's 50th Anniversary Concert at Wigmore Hall
November 26, 1951 / 2001

A Special GSI Review

David Collett, our head of Sales, recently flew to London where he met with several luthiers including Brian Cohen and Liam Romanillos. He also attended Julian Breamís 50-year anniversary concert commemorating his premiere at Wigmore Hall in London in 1951. Here is his review.

I was fortunate enough to get a ticket at the last minute for the Julian Bream recital in London, England this past November 26. Rumor had it it was to be Breamís last public performance, so having never seen him before, I figured this may be my last chance. Backstage, after the recital, he was himself indicating that he is hanging up his hat to his ďlife on the road? Nothing was mentioned about possible future recording projects either. However, given that he premiered a couple of pieces that evening (more on this later), Iím keeping my fingers crossed.

The event was a milestone not only in Breamís career but for Wigmore Hall as well. Four years after giving his first official performance at Cheltenham in 1947 at the age of thirteen, Mr. Bream made his first Wigmore Hall appearance on November 26, 1951. The concert I attended was therefore the 50th anniversary concert (to the day) of his Wigmore Hall debut.

The program for the evening was organized into two very different halves. The first half was all-Baroque with the Suite No. 6 in C minor by Robert de Visee and the Suite No. 6 in D major, for Violoncello Solo, BWV 1012 by J.S. Bach. Breamís longstanding interest in early music (particularly of the Renaissance and Baroque played on period-style instruments) is one of his trademarks both in recordings and in live recitals. His continued enthusiasm for this repertoire was evident from the first note of the Visee all the way to the last of the Bach.

In contrast to the first half, the entire second half of the program was music of the 20th century--another of Breamís much-explored area of the guitar repertoire. The selection ranged from the completely obscure (Cyril Scott, Georges Migot both pieces by these two were premieres) to the very well known (Leo Brouwer, Manuel de Falla). The first piece was the Sonatina (1927) by Cyril Scott (1879-1970). Of the entire concert, this had the most interesting story. It was written in 1927 for Andres Segovia. Segovia played the first movement only under the name "Reverie" on two occasions in 1928, once at Wigmore Hall and the other time in Buenos Aires. Since these two performances, it has been assumed that the piece was subsequently lost, possibly during the Spanish Civil War. However, in early 2001 all three movements of the piece were re-discovered among Segoviaís papers in Linares, Spain by the Italian composer and scholar Angelo Gilardino. Breamís performance this evening was therefore the first ďworld premiere?of the piece in itís entirety. The third movement has two missing pages in itís extant form, so Bream had to reconstruct them in order to revise the piece into a complete work. The audience was clearly excited to hear this piece and received it with enormous applause. This was possibly the highlight of the evening.

The rest of the program was common ground for most of us, with selections by Leo Brouwer, Albert Roussel, Toru Takemitsu and Manuel de Falla. The only other odd piece was Pour un hommage a Claude Debussy (1924) by Georges Migot (1891-1976). This was a three-movement work, which required some explanation by Bream both for itís technical difficulty and for the unusual sonorities. It had many flavors in it, and tended to sound at times like it could have been written by Eric Satie.

Bream came out for countless standing applauses, and was willing to do two last encores, the first being the Madronos of Torroba and the second being the 4th Prelude of Villa-Lobos.

The concert was in total a fantastic event. The bell-like Bream-sound that I know so well from recordings was present that night as he played on a 1940 Hauser. Wigmore Hall is also renown for its acoustics. Every nuance could be heard that evening as people from all over the world and of all ages, came to catch Bream for what may possibly be the last time.

David Collett, GSI

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