Julian Bream is not only a virtuosic guitarist, but is also well known as a pioneer who expanded the repertoire of the classical guitar by incorporating modernist works into his programs and recordings. John Duarte, a leading figure in guitar scholarship, considered Bream’s influence on the repertoire to have been not only greater than any other guitarist of his time, but also considered Bream a vital figure in retaining the wellbeing of the guitar in the modern world.
Duarte believed that Bream saved the guitarrepertoire when it was in severe danger of “ossification and stagnation,” and includes Bream among his list of “men in the history of the guitar [who] made different, key contributions to the progress of the guitar: Sor, Torres, Tárrega,… Segovia, Augustine,… [and] Julian Bream. In 1967 Bream released 20th Century Guitar, an album that would not only legitimate works that had never before been recorded by a professional guitarist, but also inspire future guitarists and composers to continue to expand the concert-guitar repertoire. This album represents the first instance in which a major guitarist recoded modernist music, and in doing so broke away from the stagnant Segovian repertoire. By the time he recorded 20 th Century Guitar, Bream had already succeeded in garnering interest in Elizabethan music with his performances and recordings of lute music, and he had managed to record a contemporary British composer’s work (Lennox Berkeley’s Sonatina) on an otherwise conservative album, The Art of Julian Bream.
However, it was not until 20 th Century Guitar that a professional and renowned guitarist had recorded works so thoroughly modernist as Reginald Smith Brindle’s El Polifemo de Oro, Benjamin Britten’s Nocturnal, Frank Martin’s Quatre pièces brèves, and Hans Werner Henze’s Drei Tentos. Curiously, the album also featured two of Heitor Villa-Lobos’ famous Études, Nos. 5 and 7.
Taylor Jonathon Greene