Uniquely gifted ‘freak’: Julian Bream gave the guitar its star turn
With an equally exuberant private life, he revitalised interest in Elizabethan music and the lute
Julian Bream, who has died at the age of 87, was the first Briton to legitimise the guitar as a serious musical instrument, laying to rest the 19th-century dictum of the Spanish violinist Juan Manén that “an Englishman playing a guitar is a kind of blasphemy”.
That he did so amid a convivial personal life of keen drinking and smoking and exuberant parties both in London and at his grand house in Wiltshire, is tribute to the magic that he brought to the concert hall and the recording studio.
Until that time Andrés Segovia had been the only recognised classical guitarist; conventional wisdom was that he was a never-to-be repeated one-off. Moreover, as Bream once said: “Segovia was a Spaniard and it seemed natural that he should play the guitar. But I was an Englishman. I suppose it was thought all right for one freak to exist, but not an embryonic second freak.”..