Women Highlight NY Guitar Festival Tribute to Classical Great Julian Bream

The NY Guitar Festival online performance series Remembering Julian Bream is adding fresh perspective on the works and personal impact on a generation of players of the recently departed classical guitar great. The seven day festival, which launched July 14, will continue to premier new three video performances each day at 3pm, 4pm and 5pm EDT through July 20. 

Seven composers are performing their own works dedicated to Bream:  Laura Snowden (UK), Jiji (Korea), Leo Brouwer – performed by Newman & Oltman Guitar Duo. (Cuba), Jozef van Wissem (Holland), Derek Gripper (South Africa), and Gyan Riley (USA).

In addition to these world premieres, the series includes performances of the classical guitar and lute music that Bream became known for, dating from the 16th through the 20th century by composers including John Dowland, Anthony Holborne, Benjamin Britten, Heitor Villa-Lobos and more.  For more on Bream’s career and his lasting impact, see the August 2020 obituary here on our site.

Some of the true highpoints of the festival are the performances by and the personal recollections of talented women in the classical guitar realm, all whom received inspiration and personal guidance from Bream.  Here are some those highlights:

In her performance on July 14, Sharon Isbin remembered her meeting with Bream as a 14-year-old in her hometown of Minneapolis.  After playing him the “Prelude to Bach’s Third Cello Concerto,” he had high praise for her style and passion, but noticed she wasn’t much using the ring finger of her right hand.  Isbin quickly adjusted her technique and has since plied a career as one of the most successful women in the classical guitar field.  She’s a multiple Grammy Award-winner featured on countless recordings, as a soloist in performances with over 200 orchestras and founder of the guitar department of the Juilliard School of Music to name a few.  Here, she tells her tale then performs one of Bream’s favorites, “Capricho Arabe” by Francisco Tarrega. 

In her July 16 performance as part of the Amadeus Guitar Duo, Dale Kavanaugh and her German partner Thomas Kirchhoff tackled another Bream favorite, an arrangement of Alexander Borodin’s “String Quartet No. 2 (Moderato)”.  At the end of this compelling 10-minute performance, Kirchhoff relates a tale of Bream’s visit to his home and the master’s recollection of his own legendary partnership with Australian virtuoso John Williams.

On Monday, July 19 at 4 pm, the festival will feature the premiere of another original composition by Jiji.  This dynamic 28-year Korean guitarist’s work spans the gap between acoustic and electric, the classics and free improvisation.  “My piece is called “MOONOU” because when I think of Julian Bream, I think of an octopus (moonou in Korean),” says Jiji.  “He just did everything; he was omnivorous. I wanted to capture his world’s colliding – the new music Julian Bream, the lutenist Julian Bream, the traditional player Julian Bream, with a hint of the world that I love. You’ll hear a bit of glitch, heavily-processed sounds, a bit of weirdness, maybe some Bach, a bit of everything. You’ll hear the way I see Julian Bream – the Octopus artist!” 

Marija Temo and Alberta Khoury perform two more favorites of Bream’s, “Spanish Dance No. 5” by Enrique Granados and “Etude No. 11 and Prelude No. 3” Heitor Villa-Lobos, on July 17 at 5 pm and July 18 at 4 pm respectively.

The NY Guitar Festival tribute to Bream will close with an original piece composed and performed by one of the young guns of the classic guitar world, Britain’s Laura Snowden.   The composition, called “Home,” is a salute to the bucolic life Bream lived in the countryside in Wiltshire, without internet or mobile phone. It was a beautiful place where she studied at the feet of the master, learning two of his original compositions that she premiered at Wigmore Hall.  Snowden’s performance will debut on July 20 at 5 pm.

As a sucker for the lute, another not-to-miss is lengthy performance by lute master Paul O’Dette, which can be seen below.

Access to “Remembering Julian Bream” is free. The NYGF and performing artists are asking viewers to make donations to MusiCares. Learn more about charitable foundation of The Recording Academy’s MusicCares COVID-19 Relief Fund, and donate to help the music community affected by the Coronavirus pandemic, here.

To watch all the performances, tune into the NY Guitar Festival YouTube Channel.   You can watch the full playlist for the series as it premieres here: NYGF YouTube Playlist, and listen to the full collection of audio recordings from WNYC Radio’s “New Sounds,” at 93.9FM or at www.newsounds.org.

Julian Breamny guitar festsharon ibsin