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My three favourite guitar players

by John
(Madrid, Spain)


1.) Julian Bream. His interpretations always seem perfect, as if there should be no other way of playing, the music of Bach, Albéniz, Granados and Tárrega.

He plays in such a way that all I hear is the music not the instrument, which seems to just melt into the music and I almost forget he is actually playing the guitar.

He reminds me of the pianist Wilhelm Kempff in that way. He is one of the most expressive musicians I've ever heard.

2.) Pepe Romero. Amazing repertoire and superb interpreter of practically anything he touches, especially Spanish romantic music. He works especially well with his family, all of whom are as good as he.

3.) John Williams: the most gifted musician and the most amazingly diverse repertoire. His interpretations of Barrios are unsurpassable, and he makes almost every technically daunting piece look and sound like child's play. His duets with Julian Bream are a real treat.

All the above players are up there with the likes of Itzhak Perlman, Maurizio Pollini, Vladimir Ashkenazy, Rostropovich etc, because they have complete command over their instrument and they make it sing and speak, with their phrasing, intonation, and in their ability to interact with other musicians.

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Mar 31, 2008
My Love Affair with Bream
by: Patricia

I know you probably won't believe me, but I once wrote Bream a letter and got a letter back.

It's one of my treasures.

Have you seen any of Bream's DVDs? To watch him play is even more amazing than to hear him. You can't separate him from the guitar.

Especially with an orchestra...to see him play the "Concierto de Aranuez" with the London Symphony is a tear jerker....to see that one small man play his heart out, and then suddenly, that whole orchestra comes in to back him...it's so moving for some reason.

I have had the worst crush on Bream...don't care that he's in his 70's.


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I'd have to say Julian Bream, Virginia Luque, Roland Dyens

by Ken
(NY)

Julian had a beautiful tone and great musicianship. Roland Dyens is always pushing the envelope as far as composers and styles go.

For a young, modern day choice I have to say Virginia Luque. Her YouTube videos are amazing. Her interpretations reflect outstanding technique AND musicianship - ie, she seems to interpret every note and phrase with her own particular style. Not overbearing, or in your face, but contextually just right. Also, I hear she plays with short nails which may help account for the unique sweet tone.

I'm not sure she's as known (at least not yet) by the public, but Id imagine she will be at some point.

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Sep 24, 2009
YouTube
by: Jeff Stanley

Thanks for the heads up on Virginia Luque. YouTube has been a great resource since I picked up the guitar to familiarize myself with top players.

For one thing, to put together a "wish list" of CDs to buy. For another, to compare the differing approaches of various artists toward the same piece. For instance, between Roland Dyens and Kaori Muraji toward "Tango en Skai." Or Segovia, John Williams, and Anna Vidovic toward "Asturias."

At that level of play, IHO one player cannot be characterized as "better" than another. Just "different," and all virtuoso.

I read a review the other day on Amazon that so-and-so "wiped the floor with Segovia." From a reviewer who himself claimed to be a guitar player and a fan of classical music. A ridiculous assertion in my book, but I suppose there's one in every crowd including the musical crowd.

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Narciso Yepes, Christopher Parkening, Julian Bream

by James
(Tucson, Arizona)

Narciso Yepes - I owned the Deutsche Grammophon LP "Bach; Works for Lute" when I was a young man. The album was lent to a friend and never came back, but I remember his playing of Bach as my ideal balance of sensitivity and mastery - musicianship. The hauntingly beautiful sarabande from Suite for Lute in G minor, BVW 995, still echoes in my memory.

Christopher Parkening - He was my first inspiration to take up the guitar. Particularly his two albums "In the Spanish Style" and "Parkening Plays Bach" wore down the needle in my record player. A music teacher of mine once said "You must be a musician first, then bring that to your instrument and work within its limitations." With Parkening, one forgets the instrument, hears the disembodied music, and then, with pre-conceived notions slipping away, one begins to hear the intimacy, tonal beauty and expressive range of our wonderful instrument in his hands.

Julian Bream - One album that I still possess is Julian Bream's "The Art of the Spanish Guitar." Bream's playing is distinct from my first two choices. I haven't listened to this album in years, but I still recall his sharp attack, and deliberate phrasing. Power, and momentum, are two words that come to mind when I think of his playing. His energy is akin to that of the flamenco guitarist, but with an admixture of formal, classical sensibility. Maybe this is part of the attraction for me; I dearly love flamenco, especially when the three components of cante, baile y toque are all present - but I digress. The pieces Bream chooses are always appropriate for the guitar - not always so in our genre. A recollection from this album is Britten's "Nocturnal," a theme and variations on Dowland's "Come, heavy sleep." If you are familiar with this piece, you'll remember that the theme isn't expressed until the end. It's cacophony of modern variations of the theme serve, among other things, to make the simple, achingly beautiful theme at the end that much more exquisite.

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julian bream,john williams,barrios

by ION
(ATHENS GREECE)

They are just perfect. I like Mr bream because every time I hear his records I hear new sounds that I didn't notice the last time. I think he performs each piece as it should be performed. Mr Williams is perfect. He performs Spanish pieces perfectly like if he was born in Spain. Sorry but I don't have words to say for the Chopin of guitar

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Mar 31, 2008
Williams
by: Patricia

John Williams understands his music and that understanding shows in every piece he plays.

Have you heard his own composition, "The Aeolian Suite"? with an orchestra? It's so beautiful.

And also have you heard his interpretation of the famous Theodorakis pieces? He makes them really sound Greek.

Williams masters the technicality of the guitar and then jumps off the cliff from there into pure passion. There is nobody else in the world who plays like he can.

He rips open space with his music.

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Julian Bream and the Ecstacy of the Classical Guitar

Segovia is the classical guitar father figure and is tonally and interpretively rich.

Sharon Isbin has precision, clarity, feeling, and great skill. She is to be greatly admired.

Julian Bream is, so far as I have seen in my life and experience, the great classical guitarist that has yet to walk the earth. He embodies the music in his very being, thus becoming one with it when he plays.

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Nov 17, 2007
I Like IT!
by: Trevor M.

Sharon Isbin is up there for me to.

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jgl


(Nogales, Arizona)

Julian Bream
Sergio & Odair Assad

Whereas Andres Segovia was a master, Julian Bream brought a flair to classical guitar that Segovia lacked, in my opinion.

I think the Assad brothers are remarkable because, for one thing, they play together, and I think the real magic happens only when two or more musicians are playing. And they are in touch with modern composers and present an almost jazz-like quality to their playing.

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Temujin

by Phil Jones
(Oxford, UK)


1. Julian Bream. Regarding his rise to prominence, I like the fact that he had to overcome a great deal of prejudice, both from the British class system against a working-class lad wanting to play classical music,and against the guitar itself within the classical world. In terms of his playing, I like the way his tone is both expressive and yet utterly solid. He seems to me to be the complete classical guitarist.

2. Anthony Glise. When I first heard his rendering of Brescianello's Partitas my immediate reaction was to be turned off. But the more I listen, the more I'm convinced that he has the inside track on what makes that music (and, by extension, baroque music for plucked instruments) work. Now, if he can only get it together to finish off his long-promised canonical edition of Brescianello, he'll be a complete hero.

3. Segovia. Because he is the father of us all, and without him the classical guitar would be little more than a cult instrument like the oud or the theorbo. And because his recordings still sound magnificent after all these years. Truly, he wrote the book on what the modern guitar can do.

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Oct 04, 2007
Excellent Response!
by: Trevor M.

Very informative content Phil and right "on the money" in my book. Well done!

Kind regards,
Trevor M.

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A guitar discovery

by George Burlage
(The Netherlands)

There are many great guitarists, and surely Julian
Bream (most beautiful tone) and John Williams (flawless technique) are among the greatest. However, It is always a bit unfair to mention only one or two names and leave the many other great players out of the equation. Yet this is what we are asked to do, and instead of choosing one of the many other well-known names, I would like to propose Peo Kindgren here. I have recently discovered this Swedish-born guitarist while surfing the web, and I can recommend looking him up on u-tube (use Google: type utube Peo Kindgren); he has made many contributions here, both classical and pop. Very inspiring!

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Nov 09, 2007
Re Peo
by: Dave W

Yes, I'll second the choice of Peo, with some 100+ video's on U Tube & all played so well, he might not be an international concert name, but is, as the song goes, a star in his own front room!

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Bruce

by Bruce Boome
(Durban, South Africa)

Quite honestly, I find it hard to choose an order for players at this level, as each of them has something magical to offer. I've also had to leave out other favourites. Anyway, for what it's worth here are my top picks.

1. Julian Bream for his unique tone, with wonderful variations of timbre. His musicality, and sensitivity. His ability to play modern music-- and make it work (20th century guitar is one of my favourites). Also his ability to be a foremost expert in so many fields- modern, Elizabethan, Bach, Romantic etc. His exploration of the lute etc.

2.John Williams for his technical facility. His Spanish interpretations are excellent (to my ears). His tone could be called typical (which is not to say that a couple of notes are enough to identify him as the player). He is refreshingly unstuffy, and I admire his stand in dress code for performances, and his experiments with electric guitar.

3. David Russell for being the new challenger for the crown. I love his tone, and big sound. His command of the instrument is awe inspiring.


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The greatest

1. Julian Bream
2. John Williams
3. David Russell

Julian Bream has the most lively character and really enjoys classical works the most. There is really no one that can put a flourish on a piece the way he does.

Williams is a great technician, and really at his best when playing with Bream. He gives the most seemingly effortless performances.

Russell? In a word CLEAN. He can take the most difficult pieces and play them to absolute perfection -- better than the original composers! Look at his TVE performance of Morel's "Sonatina III" as an example on YouTube.

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Parsyfal

by Alfio
(Monza, Italy)

Julian Bream

David Russel

Steve Hackett (hear, hear, hear!!)
yes, the former first Genesis guitarist. He plays with unparallel technique, rock, blues,acoustic and he has always been a refined composer. Listen to his classical albums and above all the last one "Tribute". Maybe you can became aware of it!

Parsyfal

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A Few Thoughts

by William Morris
(Modesto, California)

1. Julian Bream: Mr. Bream has a vast volume of work and his contribution to guitar and lute cannot be denied. His playing exhibits the finest qualities that set him above many of his contemporaries.

His interpretations of a plethora of music are enough to raise him to "legend status." He plays with pure emotion and his tone and touch leave me breathless; the finest in my humble opinion.

2. John Williams: Like Mr. Bream John Williams has made a significant contribution to the instrument--also composing and venturing beyond classical guitar into different styles further promoting tasteful and artistic music.

He brought attention to Barrios with his wonderful album bringing attention the this great composer.

3. Kazuhito Yamashita: Although somewhat controversial--Yamashita has taken on any challenge that a guitarist could imagine--breaking boundaries and never looking back.

Clearly he is truly artistic; nonetheless, he can play anything from Bach to his own transcriptions and arrangements of"Pictures at an Exhibition", Stravinsky's "Firebird Suite."

His has dazzling technique and can get his message out with soulful and sweet emotion as well. He raised the level of guitar playing and like him or not is a pioneer who cannot be ignored.

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May 30, 2008
Bream with orchestras
by: Patricia

One thing about Bream is his playing with orchestras.....he is so in tune with the whole orchestra that it's like they are all one unit.

I have a CD where he plays Villa Lobos and it's incredible...recorded probably during the heyday of his career.

Solo, or with orchestra, he is magnificent.

He's 75 now. Did you know his home is for sale? Broad Oak House, and some thirty or so acres of land...he restored that house and farmed all that land and is an excellent gardener....also a cricket player.

Truly a man of many incredible talents.

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Julian Bream Classical Guitarist

Julian Bream, to me, was one of the best classical guitarists in the last 50 years. His pure passion and ability to produce such a variation in tone astounds me to this day. Being a classical guitarist

I often play Julian Bream's music on YouTube and play along to it to get a feel of how he produced such beautiful pieces.

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Mar 08, 2011
You must be pretty good!
by: Anonymous

If you can play along with Julian Bream, you must be pretty good!

Be sure to see his DVD, "Guitarra". It really is excellent. I watch it over and over again from time to time...it's a treat.

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Sharkey

by Sharkey
(Montebello,California USA)

Julian Bream - for his flawless interpretation and soul.
Pepe Romero - for his flamenco technique and raging rasquiados.
Adam del Monte - for his energy and expression of new styles.

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