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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Julian Bream's 20th Century Guitar: An Album's Influence on the Modern Guitar Repertoire

  • Author(s): Greene, Taylor Jonathon
  • Advisor(s): Clark, Walter A
  • et al.

Julian Bream is not only a virtuoso guitarist, but he is also well known as a pioneer who expanded the repertoire of the classical guitar by incorporating modernist works into his programs and recordings. 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 recorded modernist music, and in so doing broke away from the conservative repertoire associated with Andrés Segovia. The works on this album are: Reginald Smith Brindle's El Polifemo de Oro, Benjamin Britten's Nocturnal, Frank Martin's Quatre pièces brèves, Hans Werner Henze's Drei Tentos, and Heitor Villa-Lobos's Études, Nos. 5 and 7.

20th Century Guitar was part of Bream's deliberate effort to expand the guitar's repertoire in a direction divorced from the romantic nostalgia that had characterized works written for Segovia; instead, Bream sought to create a distinctly British guitar tradition that embraced modernist languages. The works Bream chose for inclusion on 20th Century Guitar were meant to be challenging to listeners in their unprecedented length, melodic angularity, 12-tone compositional technique, neo-classicism, and/or atonality, yet they were also selected for their accessibility to new audiences.

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