Julian Bream playing a lute, 1975
Julian Bream playing a lute, 1975 Credit: Erich Auerbach/Getty Images

三级成人视频Julian Bream, who has died aged 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”.

三级成人视频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.

三级成人视频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.”

三级成人视频His performances, which ranged from the clean aesthetic of the Tudor repertoire to the intricate rhythms and harmonies of the jazz guitar, were much sought-after events. His manner of delivery ranged from a solo spot, perched on a stool, to performing as the lead member of the Julian Bream Consort, the group he founded that was dedicated to exploring the repertoire of the first Elizabethan age and demonstrating its relevance to contemporary music-making.

三级成人视频It was thanks to Bream and a handful of others that the guitar assumed its place as a serious instrument. His biographer Tony Palmer observed: “There can be little doubt that his example as a performer, his choice of repertoire, his willingness to spend much of his life on the road proselytising, has had a profound influence on the development and future of the guitar.”

Despite being in demand to deliver new works from composers such as Malcolm Arnold, Benjamin Britten and Michael Tippett, Bream remained drawn to the earlier period. “I felt instinctively that this was a music period in these islands rich in beauty, inventiveness and vitality,” he recalled. “And it seemed to me I had a possibility to help revitalise some of this music.”

The pianist and composer Richard Rodney Bennett (1936-2012), pianist and conductor Andre Previn (1929-2019), and Bream at the piano, December 1970 Credit: Evening Standard/Hulton Archive/Getty

三级成人视频Julian Bream was born on July 15 1933 in Battersea, South London, the oldest of “about eight” children. During the early years of the war he was evacuated to the South West, where he learnt to milk cows and shear sheep. His father, Henry, was a commercial artist and amateur jazz guitarist who took his son to hear the playing of Django Reinhardt. On his son’s 11th birthday he gave him his first guitar.

Within a year Julian, a child prodigy, had won a junior piano exhibition to the Royal College of Music, where he also studied cello. He was 13 when he gave his first public performance, in Cheltenham. “I was very, very nervous,” he recalled. “But once I started I overcame my nerves … and I enjoyed it very much.”

三级成人视频Meanwhile, his father had turned classical, becoming treasurer of the Philharmonic Society of Guitars (whose president, Boris Perott, a renowned Russian exile, taught the young Julian for a time, with limited success).

三级成人视频This gave the youngster access to a large collection of rare music. He also had what he described as a couple of “sessions” with Segovia in 1947, during the Spaniard’s first postwar visit to London, but later he insisted that they were not formal lessons.

The former PM Edward Heath presents a silver disc to Julian Bream (left) for his recording of Rodrigo's Concierto de Aranjuez in April 1976 Credit: Roger Jackson/Central Press/Hulton Archive/Getty Images

After leaving the Royal College – where he was banned from bringing in his instrument because of the distraction it caused to the other students, particularly the female ones – Bream was called up for his National Service with the Pay Corps.

三级成人视频But within six months he had arranged a transfer to the Royal Artillery, stationed at Woolwich, where he played jazz guitar in the dance band and from where he was able to moonlight in London. He was now in the regular Army, and Private Bream had to serve a full three years with the RA.

三级成人视频After demobilisation he had two auditions for BBC radio, but failed them both “so I took any job that came my way”.

Early work included recording, in 1948 (aged 14), music for Basil Dearden’s film Saraband for Dead Lovers with Stewart Granger (among other Ealing Studios pictures); and quite a lot of the music for Gene Kelly’s 1956 all-dance movie Invitation to the Dance.

Otherwise there were few opportunities for classical guitar in the 1950s. Bream recalled being lucky if he gave 15 recitals a year, often to a thin audience. “I used to drive myself about in an old Austin van … and then have to sleep in the back because I couldn’t afford a hotel,” he said.

Elizabeth I playing the lute: a portrait miniature by Nicholas Hilliard, c 1580 Credit: ART Collection/Alamy 

Gradually a surge in interest for 16th and 17th century dramas at the BBC led to openings providing instrumental music. Opportunities to take lessons on the lute, as played by Elizabeth I, were extremely limited, however, so Bream adapted his guitar technique to the instrument, discovering on the way that plucking the strings with his nails (rather than the traditional finger tips) could produce the variation in tone and dynamic that he sought. He would lead a revival in interest in lute music.

After a successful Wigmore Hall debut in 1951, Bream gave a small tour of the UK; three years later he was heard in the United States. Slowly an annual circuit gradually emerged, including the Dartington Summer School where, on one occasion, he was joined by Peter Pears and on another by the Australian guitarist John Williams, with whom he shared a mutual admiration.

The Australian guitarist John Williams (left) and Julian Bream performing, November 1972 Credit: Don Smith/Radio Times/Getty Images

三级成人视频If Bream’s musicianship was razor-sharp, his domestic arrangements could be haphazard. While touring India one year he lent his flat in Earl’s Court to a singer, who found 18 pairs of evening shoes under the bed, all worn down to the heels, a cupboard piled high with dirty evening dress shirts and a sackful of unopened mail.

He once encouraged fellow musicians to join him at the English Music Week in the Bavarian Alps with the words: “Great place, nice people, good music, good tucker, and I was knee-deep in girls.”

Although he had agents in London, New York and Germany, Bream ran his own diary, wherever possible arranging travel, hotels and other details directly with the promoter. He would happily load his instruments and concert clothes into a van and drive alone from Wiltshire to the south of Italy, stopping for engagements en route, and pocketing his fee – always in cash – as he went along.

Despite an inability to speak other languages and a dislike of foreign customs that bordered on the xenophobic, Bream spent several months a year from the 1960s to the 1990s touring, including annual visits to both the East and West Coasts of the US.

Bream: brought magic to the recording studio

三级成人视频Julian Bream was one of the most documented of performing artists. The BBC made a number of profiles, including in 1976 A Life in the Country and, some years later, a series of masterclasses. An eight-part series for Channel 4 in 1984 explored the historical perspectives of Spanish guitar music.

A portrait of Bream, by Michael Taylor, from 1984 hangs in the National Portrait Gallery in London: “He painted me with a fearsome look in my eyes, but when I asked my friends, they said, ‘You may not like to know it, but sometimes you look exactly like that.’ ” A Life on the Road, a biography, by Tony Palmer, was published in 1982.

Since the mid-1960s Bream had lived in what was once described as a “gentleman’s farmhouse”, Broad Oak House in Wiltshire, an imposing pile full of elegance and grandeur, where he insisted in spending entire summers without touring, tending to his extensive gardens. An assortment of instrument-makers worked in his outbuildings from time to time, while London musicians enjoyed flocking to Wiltshire for some summer music-making.

三级成人视频Teaching was not his forte. “I’m a very bad teacher,” he once said. “But sometimes I can get bored … I much rather coach a string quartet in an interpretation of Haydn or Beethoven than to teach the guitar.”

In 1984 his arm was seriously injured in a car accident, from which he fought back with typical tenacity. But 16 years later, after one too many lively evenings, he crashed once more (“the bridge got smaller that night”). Shortly afterwards, and after a 70th birthday concert at the Wigmore Hall, he retired from public life.

Bream at his home, Broad Oak House in Wiltshire, circa 2007: instrument makers worked in his outbuildings from time to time, while London musicians flocked to Wiltshire for summer music-making Credit: Christopher Jones

He continued to play for pleasure, his music-making appreciated by Django, a boisterous flat-coated black retriever, but the parties were over and the girls had vanished: he became a virtual recluse, rarely keeping in touch with former friends and colleagues. By now he had given up smoking.

In 2011 Bream was forced to stop giving even casual recitals after being knocked over by a neighbour’s dog while walking Django in the countryside near his home. The fall damaged his left hand and broke both hips.

三级成人视频But he accepted the situation, telling Stuart Jeffries in The Guardian: “There’s nothing sad about not playing any more. The thing I feel a little annoyed about is that I know I’m a better musician than I was at 70, but I can’t prove it.”

三级成人视频He was appointed OBE in 1964, advanced to CBE in 1985, and in 2013 received the Gramophone lifetime achievement award.

Bream kept two Morris Minors, one green, one white.

三级成人视频He married, first, in 1968, Margaret Williamson (daughter of the novelist Henry Williamson), with whom he adopted a son; and, secondly, in 1980, Isabel Sanchez. Both marriages were dissolved.

Julian Bream, born July 15 1933, August 14 2020