Library E-Resources: Oxford History of Western Music

oxford history of western music logo

“The Oxford History of Western Music online offers an unmatched account of the evolution of Western classical music by one of the most prominent and provocative musicologists of our time, Richard Taruskin.”

Through the Jerwood Library’s online resources, students and staff now have access to Richard Taruskin’s seminal Oxford History of Western Music in interactive digital format. The work provides a narrative account of the evolution of Western classical music, beginning with the earliest notations right through to the music of the late Twentieth Century, and was originally published in 2009 as a set of five large volumes. The library does have a hard copy of the set in our reference collection, but now it’s also available online the full text is extremely easy to navigate, and can be searched and browsed in its entirety, along with all footnotes, bibliographies, and further readings for each of the 69 chapters, numerous illustrations, and 1,800 musical examples.

“Laced with brilliant observations, memorable musical analyses, and a panoramic sense of the interaction between history, culture, politics, art, literature, religion, and music, the Oxford History of Western Music is essential reading for anyone who wishes to understand the rich and diverse tradition of Western music.”

Moreover, the Oxford History of Western Music online features 1,700 editorially chosen deep links to relevant entries in Grove Music Online (which is also available via the library’s online subscriptions). For instance, when reading about a particular composer in Taruskin’s work, a user will also be able to click through to the relevant Grove Music Online article for further in-depth information.

If you’re on site at Trinity Laban, access the Oxford History of Western Music here
Or if you’re at home, access the Oxford History of Western Music here

 

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Clara Schumann’s 200th Anniversary

Clara Schumann in 1853

It’s 200 years since the birth of Clara Schumann (née Wieck) (1819-1896), and the Jerwood Library is marking the occasion with a small exhibition dedicated to her life and work displaying a range of materials available from our collection, including books, scores, and recordings.

In her time, Clara Schumann was best known as a virtuoso pianist, considered the peer of such keyboard giants as Liszt, Thalberg and Anton Rubinstein and known as Europe’s ‘Queen of the Piano’. She sustained a brilliant career for over 60 years, and her playing was described as displaying a ‘masterful technique, beautiful tone and poetic spirit’. Clara began her career as a child prodigy, tutored intensively by her father, she astonished the public and fellow musicians all over Europe with her talents.

COMPOSER

Clara also composed an accomplished series of around 50 pieces, greatly admired by her contemporaries, most of which are songs and piano miniatures. However, after the death of her husband Robert in 1856, although Clara continued her career as a virtuoso performer, she more or less stopped composing altogether. In light of the quality of the works she wrote earlier in her life, what she could have produced if she hadn’t been constrained by the demands of raising and providing for eight children, as well as the social mores of her day, remains one of those great ‘what-ifs’ of music history.

The 15 year old Clara Wieck, around the time of the completion of her piano concerto

Piano Concerto

Clara began her Piano Concerto in A Minor op.7 when she was only 13 years old, and it is her only surviving orchestral work. She first performed the piece three years later on 11 November 1835, at the Leipzig Gewandhaus under Mendelssohn’s direction. It’s a central piece in her early compositional career, displaying both her virtuosity and her innovative musical thinking, and comes from a period of her life filled with concert tours and plans for new works.

Songs

“After her marriage her compositional style changed; she herself was maturing as an artist and the daily involvement with Robert and their joint studies influenced her work. She wrote fewer character-pieces and turned, as Robert Schumann had, to songs; three (Am Strande, Volkslied and Ich stand in dunkeln Träumen) were presented to her husband on their first Christmas together. These were followed by four songs, three of which (op.12) were incorporated in a joint collection (Robert Schumann’s op.37). All her lieder, including some until recently unpublished, are expressive and powerful contributions to the genre.”

– Reich, Nancy B. Schumann [née Wieck], Clara (Josephine). Grove Music Online

MARRIAGE TO ROBERT

Clara Wieck and Robert Schumann, whom she had known since childhood, wed in 1840, the day before her 21st birthday. Their marriage was a rare partnership: the two musicians studied scores together and read poetry for possible settings; she arranged many of his instrumental works for piano and acted as rehearsal pianist for groups he conducted.

Robert’s work became known to the musical world through her concert tours in Austria, Belgium, France, Germany, Denmark, Switzerland, Russia, and England (she made 19 trips to the British Isles). Almost all his orchestral works were introduced in concerts in which she was the solo artist and she gave the première of almost every work he wrote for or with piano.

Clara still managed to continue to perform, teach and compose whilst also having eight children with Robert. However, despite her aptitude for composition, her teaching and performance, as well as the promotion of her husband’s works, eventually took precedence. This was particularly the case after Robert’s death, when she began to take on a persona as solemn ‘priestess’ of music. Dressed in black, performing ‘serious’ works, she devoted herself to her children and her husband’s memory and music.

Dressed in black, fuelling her image in later life as the ‘priestess of music’

VIRTUOSO PIANIST

Clara Schumann’s illustrious career as a pianist lasted for over 60 years. As Europe’s ‘Queen of the Piano’, she had a considerable influence on concert life and pianism in the 19th century, and many of her innovations in performance practice remain to this day. For example, she was one of the few pianists to perform music from memory and (with Liszt) one of the first pianists to give solo concerts without assisting artists.

With Clara, the piano recital became an event in which the compositions themselves were of foremost importance, rather than the virtuosity of the performer. At the time, pianists tended to give entire concerts of their own works, whereas she introduced Bach, Scarlatti, Beethoven and Schubert to audiences more accustomed to showy variations on popular melodies.

 


 

Main source of information about Clara Schumann’s life and career: Reich, Nancy B. Schumann [née Wieck], Clara (Josephine). Grove Music Online. Oxford Music Online (accessed January 2019)

String quartets by women composers

As chamber music is one of my musical passions – and in particular, the string quartet – inspired by Venus Blazing, I decided to see what the library had to offer in terms of String Quartets by women composers. To help me do this, I was able to use the new “women only” search limiter in the Jerwood Library Catalogue.

Display Jan 2019 Cat search screenshot

At the time of writing, my search (as pictured above) returned over 70 search results. These results contained a mixture of scores, parts, online scores and ensembles including string quartet and voice, for example. These are by composers such as Sophie-Carmen Eckhardt-Gramatté (1899-1974), Doreen Carwithen (1922-2003), Elizabeth Maconchy (1907-1994), Doroth Gow (1893-1982), Elisabeth Lutyens (1906-1983), Grazyna Bacewicz (1909-1969) and Priaulx Rainier (1903-1986), to name just a few!

From my search results, I noticed that the library has several string quartets by Elizabeth Maconchy and Elisabeth Lutyens. Venus Blazing logo

Maconchy, Elizabeth (1907-1994)              String quartets 1 – 12 (Shelved at 782.3 MAC)

On the Music Sales website it says, “Maconchy studied at the Royal College of Music with Vaughan Williams, who remained a lifelong friend; but she was attracted less by English pastoralism than by the central European modernism of Bartók and Janáček, and she completed her studies with K.B. Jirák in Prague.”

Lutyens, Elisabeth (1906-1983) Sets of parts for 7 string quartets (Shelved at 782.3 LUT)

Lutyens was known and respected as a creative artist for whom compromise was impossible. She was also a provocative and inspiring teacher who gave herself unstintingly to her pupils. Her output was large and varied, and the importance of her contribution to the country’s musical life was recognised in 1969, when she was made a Commander of the British Empire.http://www.musicsalesclassical.com/composer/long-bio/elisabeth-lutyens 

When using Quicksearch [available to TL staff and students only] to research women composers and the string quartet, I came across a very interesting article in the Journal of the Royal Musical Association, by our very own Dr Sophie Fuller.

Putting the BBC and T. Beecham to Shame’: The Macnaghten–Lemare Concerts, 1931–7. Journal of the Royal Musical Association; 2013, Vol. 138 Issue 2, p377-414, 38p. 2013

The article looks at how in 1930’s Britain, a group of young women set up their own concert series in order to promote new music and that of women composers which was being overlooked by conductors, orchestras and concert series in general at this time. As it says in the abstract for the article, “the Macnaghten–Lemare concerts were also remarkable for the central role played by women – as performers, organizers and composers – and for the space they provided for the unconventional and ignored.”

Sophie Fuller kindly gave me some exclusive background perspective about how the article came about:

“This article took a very long time to get into print. I originally started researching this particular concert series back in the 1980s, for my BMus dissertation at King’s College, London. I was initially interested in investigating the links between British musical and political life in the 1930s. One of my earliest essays, as a mature music undergraduate, was on Britten and Auden’s song cycle Our Hunting Fathers (1936). When researching performances of Britten’s early music, I came across the Macnaghten-Lemare concerts, a fascinating series of chamber, choral and orchestral concerts given in London by an enterprising group of three young women – violinist Anne Macnaghten, who led an all-woman string quartet, conductor Iris Lemare and composer Elisabeth Lutyens.”

The article also explores the ‘role of gender in the promotion and performance of contemporary British music’. The title of the article is in fact a quote from Ralph Vaughan Williams, taken from a letter of encouragement he wrote to Anne Macnaghten! “You are doing great work and putting the BBC and T. Beecham to shame.”

Sophie Fuller goes on to say:

“It quickly struck me that one of the most unusual things about these concerts, which focused on new music, was how much music by women was programmed – alongside their male contemporaries such as Britten. Back then, both Macnaghten and Lemare were still alive. A crucial part of my research was going to visit and talk to them both. I can still vividly remember drinking sherry with Iris Lemare as she dug out her old scrapbooks, before driving me to her local library so I could photocopy them.”

Women composers

A Selection of Women Composers of the String Quartet

If you need help searching for repertoire by women composers, please don’t hesitate to ask and don’t forget that if there is a particular piece of music you would like to play, which the library doesn’t have, you can fill in a Purchase Request Form available from the library or via Moodle. You can also read Sophie’s full article via Quicksearch or take a look at the hard copy in the library. Also, why not check out this new book on the subject: ‘British Women Composers and Instrumental Chamber Music in the Early Twentieth Century’ by Laura Seddon. You can find more books on Women Composers on the new items shelf, by using the ‘Women only’ filter in the catalogue and by looking at our new books in the library catalogue.

My sincere thanks go to Dr Sophie Fuller for taking the time out of her busy schedule to give me these fascinating behind-the-scenes insights into her research for this article. I leave you with a few final words of summary from her:

“In many ways, this project lit the fire for my twin obsessions with unusual archival research and the overlooked musical work of women. One of the first pieces of music programmed for these concerts was Elizabeth Maconchy’s String Quartet No. 1 (1932-3), which remains the keystone work whose neglect still drives me to campaign for the forgotten music of women to this day.”

Sources of Digital Scores

As we enter the last few days of term and many students will be heading home for the Christmas vacation, now seems a good time to draw attention to a few great sources of digital sheet music that you can access anywhere with an internet connection.

Many of you will doubtless already be keen users of IMSLP, which includes PDFs of nearly half a million scores.

IMSLP

 

It’s a fantastic source of – primarily – public domain scores (though just note that it’s a Canadian site, so some scores which are in the public domain in Canada are still in copyright in the EU and thus can’t be downloaded here in the UK).

 

 

But how many other sources of digital scores are you familiar with?

The Jerwood Library’s subscription to the Music Online package from Alexander Street Press includes nearly 12,000 digital scores. This spans a huge range of repertoire, and – because it’s a subscription resource that Trinity Laban pays for on your behalf – it includes contemporary works that are still in copyright. They are great resource for your assignments and can also be used for rehearsal purposes, but just be aware that the licensing terms of the collection mean these scores can’t be used for public performance. You can search these via the Jerwood Library catalogue by limiting your search to digital scores.

Digital score search

 

There are also many freely accessible websites that focus on particular composers, genres, repertoire or library collections.

The Choral Public Domain Library currently hosts over 30,000 choral and vocal works and also includes a handy function to search for sacred music categorized by season.

A number of music publishers include perusal scores on their website (in some cases you may have to set up a free account to view them). See for example Music Sales, Faber and Boosey and Hawkes.  It’s also worth noting that the British Music Collection includes perusal scores for works by a large number of British composers, again including many contemporary scores.

Whilst you can’t use perusal scores for performance, they may fulfil just the function you need when writing assignments or selecting repertoire. If you come across something that you think it would be useful for the library to buy, do complete a purchase recommendation form.

Some publishers have made the scholarly editions of particular composers available online. Examples include the Neue-Mozart Ausgabe Online, offering a digitized version of the music and commentary of the entire Barenreiter critical edition, and the Carl Nielsen edition comprising a 32 volume critical edition of Nielsen’s works.

Finally, many libraries undertake digitization projects, often focussing on rare or unique holdings within their collections.

The Full English is a collaborative project between the English Folk Dance and Song Society and a number of library partners resulting in the world’s largest collection of English folk manuscripts.

Gallica is the digital library of the Bibliotheque Nationale de France. It includes a wealth of digital documents, with the music scores subset searchable from this page.

The Library of Congress has also undertaken a huge digitization programme with over 90,000 scores available online. To browse these select notated music

LOCand refine your results to those available online.

Loc refined

All that leaves is for me to wish you:

Merry Christmas

Claude Debussy (1862-1918)

Debussy was undoubtedly one of the most important figures in the music of the late-nineteenth and early-twentieth centuries. It is unlikely that any of the music of our time would sound quite the same had it not been for the remarkable developments and sheer beauty of his work.

To commemorate the centenary of his death, the Jerwood Library is very proud to present an exhibition of materials relating to this great composer.

The display contains examples from the whole range of physical resources available through the library to anyone interested in learning more about Debussy, including sheet music, scores, facsimiles, collected editions, recordings, books and journal articles. And, of course, one must not forget the vast online resources that are also available to Trinity Laban staff and students through the Jerwood Library, including many other scores, recordings, books and articles.

Debussy display

Part of the display of Debussy materials in the Jerwood Library

 

 

Library E-Resources: Naxos Music Library

Although the Jerwood library has over 11,500 CDs on our shelves, that’s only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the recordings that students and staff can access. As part of this ongoing series of blog posts that draw attention to some of our online resources, this week I want to highlight the Naxos Music Library.

I think most people are probably familiar with Naxos as one of the biggest classical music record labels in the world, however people might not be aware that they offer a free streaming service to members of any institution with a subscription. As well as releasing their own Naxos-brand recordings, Naxos are also one of the biggest distributors of independent classical record labels, giving you access to an enormous range of high-quality recordings from the entirety of their classical and jazz collections – 140,000 discs at the last count!

If you’re trying to track down a certain recording, simply discover new music or explore a particular artist’s back catalogue, Naxos Music Library is a fantastic place to turn (and contains plenty of recordings which aren’t on Spotify!).

If you’re on site at Trinity Laban, access Naxos Music Library here
Or if you’re at home, access Naxos Music Library here

The password for Naxos is different from the usual Trinity Laban log-in details and can be found on Moodle here, or via the following pathway:

Moodle > Library links > Jerwood Library Information > Library passwords

New Women Composers Search Limiter

This academic year sees the start of Venus Blazing, in which Trinity Laban will ensure that at least half of the music it chooses for all its major public music performances will be by women composers. The Jerwood Library has introduced the option to limit search results on our catalogue to show works by ‘Women only’, making it easier than ever for students and staff to search for music by women that they may wish to perform as part of this initiative.

Simply select the limiter and then search the catalogue as normal:

We have concentrated on identifying sheet music and scores to help identify repertoire for performance; coverage of recordings is very patchy at present.

A big thanks goes to Dr. Sophie Fuller for assistance in identifying women composers on our database, and Rob Deemer, founder of the Composer Diversity Database, who shared data with us to help automate this process.

It’s a work in progress and if anyone spots sheet music we haven’t labelled with ‘Women composers’ as a subject let us know via jlpa@trinitylaban.ac.uk and we will make further updates during the year. Similarly, if anyone spots a ‘false positive’ that’s labelled as Women composers incorrectly, send us an email and we will amend this.

A Summer of Sport….in the Jerwood Library

Image

Prompted by the sporting frenzy surrounding England’s unexpected success on the football field in June, overlapping with underwhelming Wimbledon results, and followed shortly by the test cricket season, I wondered whether the Jerwood Library might have material to compliment the sporting theme. A serious five minutes of research on the library catalogue yielded some surprising results, a few of which can be seen in our small display cabinet in the library until the end of the month.

A summer of sport in the Jerwood music library

Searching for the term ‘football’ revealed Charles Ives’ entertaining Yale-Princeton football game (1) subtitled Two halves in two minutes. Ives depicts the crowd’s anticipation, echoes of the Yale long chant (I commend the Youtube video on that topic to enhance your appreciation of the Ives) and a number of other US college songs, the referee’s whistle (piccolo) punctuating events, the crescendo to touchdown, all woven together to depict a particular football game (1897) and over in two minutes. Trinity folks can listen to it here.

Top of the list under ‘tennis’ is Ping! For string quartet, 4 table tennis players and film by Joe Cutler (2). A collaboration between Joe Cutler, the Coull String Quartet and members of the Fusion table tennis club, this audience-friendly piece explores and blends the distinct sounds and rhythms of table tennis with those of the string quartet and requires virtuoso performances from both the string quartet and the table tennis players. It is great fun to watch. First performed March in 2012 at the Warwick Arts Centre, it was also filmed in the foyer of the QEH on 14 July 2012. There is a recording on Naxos and the filmed QEH performance is on YouTube here – well worth a watch.

A more general search under ‘sport’ led to an unexpectedly comic source.  J. Frederic Bridge’s 1918 book A Westminster pilgrim: being a record of service in church, cathedral, and abbey, […] (3) might not seem the obvious place to find amusing sporting reference, however, he does write entertainingly of a cricket match he organised between members of his choir, including a description of his own disastrous batting performance, and the on-going usefulness of that game to what nowadays might be called ‘team building’ in his choir. Besides the cricket match, the book has amusing observations on the perennial problem of encouraging older choir members to retire when their voices begin to deteriorate.

The ‘Sport’ search also returned the score of Paul Ayres Loughborough cantata (4), one of the sizeable list of works composed to celebrate the 2012 London Olympic Games. This three-part piece ranges in mood and style, and won Loughborough University 2012 Composition competition. The brief included the requirement to include a ‘sports anthem’ song .

Developing talent in young people, edited by Benjamin Bloom (5) is an example of the growing corpus of books held here at the Jerwood library which draw parallels between the training needs of sports people and musicians. This volume has chapters on learning to be a concert pianist, alongside similar ones covering diverse subjects including Olympic swimming, tennis and neurology. Andrew Horrall’s Popular culture in London, c. 1890-1918 (6) earned its place in the display cabinet mainly for the boxing illustration on the front cover!

Of the twelve hits on the search term ‘cricket’, the volume of 2 plays by playwright, Roy Williams justified its display place partly for the title: The no boys cricket club (6) , and partly as a reminder that the library holds a small, select collection of play scripts. The no boys cricket club is set on a London council estate and the lead character, Abi, recalls her glorious past in Jamaica as the greatest all-rounder of the No boys cricket club. Incidentally, Williams won the first (1997) Alfred Fagon Award, and, in 1999, both the John Whiting Award for best new play and the EMMA Award for Starstruck, (the other play in this volume) as well as having a distinguished list of performed work and other awards to his name.

Finally Clive Aslet’s book, The story of Greenwich (7) includes a charming illustration of a 1760s handkerchief depicting ‘holiday gambols’ in Greenwich Park – lots of people running up and down the hill and a musician playing pipe and tabor – bringing the whole subject closer to home here at the Jerwood Library.

(1) The Orchestral music of Charles Ives: premieres and new Ives Society critical editions. Koch International. [CD] Shelved at: ORCHESTRAL: IVE
Here’s the link for Trinity Laban staff and students to the online recording: http://tl-naxosmusiclibrary-com.proxy.trinitylaban.ac.uk/stream.asp?s=71451%2Ftcm14%2Fq80732_105

(2) Cutler, Joe. Ping! For string quartet, 4 table tennis players and film. [Unpublished, c2012]. Shelved at: 782.99 CUT
Members of Trinity Laban can listen here http://tl-naxosmusiclibrary-com.proxy.trinitylaban.ac.uk/stream.asp?s=71451%2Ftcm14%2Frr8869_001

(3) J. Frederick Bridge, 1844-1924. A Westminster pilgrim : being a record of service in church, cathedral, and abbey, college, university and concert-room, with a few notes on sport. London: Novello & Co. : Hutchinson & Co., 1918. Shelved at: 784.6 BRI.

(4) Ayres, Paul. Loughborough cantata: for choir SATB and piano. [unpublished?], 2011. Shelved at: 780.43 AYR

(5) Developing talent in young people / edited by Benjamin S. Bloom. New York: Ballantine Books, 1985. Shelved at: 150 DEV

(6) Horrall, Andrew. Popular culture in London, c. 1890-1918: the transformation of entertainment. Manchester University Press, 2001. Shelved at: 941 HOR

(7) Williams, Roy, 1968-. Starstruck [and] The no boys cricket club. London : Methuen, 1999 Shelved at: 822 WIL.

(8) Aslet, Clive. The story of Greenwich. London: Fourth Estate, 1999. Shelved at: 941 : 1999

Celebrating Florence Price

Image of Florence Price

By The New York Times courtesy of University of Arkansas Libraries Special Collections [CC BY-SA 4.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

Trinity Laban recently announced the Venus Blazing initiative, which aims to increase the representation of women composers in large-scale public performance programming to 50% during the 2018/19 season. Following on from our recent feature on Ethel Smyth and the Suffragette movement, this month’s small exhibition cabinet showcases another female composer, Florence Price (1887-1953).

Born into an African-American family in Little Rock, Arkansas, Florence Price studied at the New England Conservatory in Boston, then from the 1920s onwards lived in Chicago. Price holds the distinction of being “the first black American woman to have an orchestral work performed by a major American orchestra”[1], following the performance of her Symphony in E minor by the Chicago Symphony Orchestra in 1933. (please note: links to recordings and articles in this blog post will allow TL students and staff direct access when on site only)

As well as orchestral works, Price wrote piano and organ music, solo songs and choral works. In addition to her classical composition training, Price’s musical style often draws inspiration from the spirituals and juba dance rhythms of her African-American heritage[2]. Price also wrote music for radio adverts, under the pseudonym Vee Jay[3].


Online and audiovisual resources
Venus Blazing logo

As well as the printed music items currently on display, there is plenty more information about Florence Price to be found in Trinity Laban’s online resource collections. Florence Price’s entry in Grove Music Online is an excellent place to start for biographical information and a list of her compositions. Price is featured in several of the online reference works on Alexander Street Press, and you can also find further references to journal articles and dissertations via QuickSearch.

If you would like to listen to some of Florence Price’s music there are many recordings available on our audiovisual streaming platforms – for example this recording of the celebrated Song to the Dark Virgin on Naxos, or this recording of the Violin concertos via Alexander Street Press.


References

[1] Brown, Rae Linda, ‘Price [Smith], Florence Bea(trice)’ in Grove Music Online. Oxford Music Online, <http://www.oxfordmusiconline.com/grovemusic/view/10.1093/gmo/9781561592630.001.0001/omo-9781561592630-e-0000048286> (accessed May 15, 2018)

[2] Brown, Rae Linda. ‘William Grant Still, Florence Price, and William Dawson: Echoes of the Harlem Renaissance’, in Black music in the Harlem renaissance: a collection of essays, ed. Floyd, Samuel A. Jr. Knoxville: University of Tennessee Press, 1990. 71– 86.

[3] Walker-Hill, Helen. Piano music by black women composers: a catalog of solo and ensemble works. New York: Greenwood Press, 1992.


 

 

From the Library of Julian Bream – An Exhibition of his Scores and Manuscripts

We are delighted to have added to our special collections the personal music library of guitarist Julian Bream. The scores in the collection reflect every aspect of his long career as one of the world’s greatest guitar players, and many items contain an abundance of markings from his performances and recordings of the pieces.

photo by S.Hurok (public domain)

Bream’s tireless work in expanding the guitar’s repertoire is reflected in both original manuscript copies of his arrangements, as well as copies of works specially-commissioned by Bream from leading twentieth-century composers, including Benjamin Britten, Peter Maxwell-Davies, Lennox Berkeley and Hans Werner Henze, among others.

 

Bream’s Life & Legacy

It’s hard to overstate Julian Bream’s contribution to the classical guitar. Through his long career of performances, recordings and arrangements, it seems fair to say that no-one since Andrés Segovia has done so much to increase both the reputation and the repertoire of the classical guitar. As Graham Wade puts it:

“Bream’s stature as one of the greatest masters of the guitar has been established for many years. The deep intensity of his playing, the sheer beauty of his tone control, and his profound empathy with a great range of music, have enabled him to achieve a radical extension of the guitar repertory and to reach the widest possible audience for half a century.”[1]

Some of Bream’s arrangements on display

Something that makes Bream’s achievements all the more remarkable is that his guitar technique was ‘home-made’, as he puts it. After initial lessons with his father, he did later attend the Royal College of Music with a full scholarship, but he did so as a student of cello and piano, as guitar wasn’t taught at the college at the time. Beginning with a debut at the Wigmore hall in 1950, Bream soon began to play a significant part in changing the status of the guitar with recitals throughout Britain, followed by European, then North and South American concert tours in subsequent years.

It was around the time of Bream’s first guitar recitals that he also picked up the lute and, as Diana Poulton remarks in her book John Dowland, as early as 1951, ‘astonished everyone with the brilliance of his musicianship and his complete technical mastery of the lute’.[2] Again, as with the guitar, his achievements are all the more exceptional in light of his position as a self-taught pioneer of the instrument:

”When I began playing the lute, in 1950, there were not too many lutenists around. I had to work hard, writing out music in museums and libraries. […] And I had just picked up the lute, adapted my guitar technique to it and went from there.”[3]

A few years later, in 1959, he formed the Julian Bream Consort, a period-instrument ensemble with Bream as lutenist. The group was initially put together simply in order to play Morley’s First Book of Consort Lessons, but their subsequent success did a lot to stimulate the popularity of early consort music in general.

Another important element in Bream’s career is his extensive back catalogue of recordings. His prolific recording output covers the whole spectrum of repertoire for guitar and lute, including his large catalogue of iconic RCA recordings, television masterclasses and his ‘¡Guitarra!’ documentary, wherein he explored the whole history of the vihuela and guitar in Spain, playing specially-commissioned historic instruments for the project.

Expanding the Repertoire

Julian Bream commissioned, performed and recorded works by some of the twentieth-century’s leading composers. On display from the Jerwood Library’s new collection are pieces from Peter Maxwell-Davies, Stephen Dodgson, Reginald Smith-Brindle, Joaquín Rodrigo and Benjamin Britten, all containing gracious notes and dedications to the guitarist. Other well-known composers that Bream inspired to write for the guitar include Malcolm Arnold (Guitar Concerto, Fantasy), Michael Tippett (The Blue Guitar), Leo Brouwer (Concerto elegiaco, Sonata), Lennox Berkeley (Guitar Concerto, Sonatina, Theme and Variations), Richard Rodney Bennett (Guitar Concerto, Impromptus, Sonata), Alan Rawsthorne (Elegy) and William Walton (Five Bagatelles).[4] Bream’s efforts in this area made great strides in expanding the horizons of the twentieth-century guitar beyond its previous limits as an almost exclusively Spanish art form—as it was in the hands of older composers like Pujol, Torroba, Mompou & Rodrigo—to a more eclectic range of international styles and approaches.

Bream’s copy of the final page of Britten’s Nocturnal

In particular, Benjamin Britten’s Nocturnal After John Dowland, op.70—written for and premiered by Bream—is widely considered to be a crowning jewel of the twentieth-century guitar repertoire.  The Nocturnal takes the form of an unorthodox set of theme and variations, with each of the work’s eight movements coming gradually closer to Dowland’s Come, Heavy Sleep from his First Book of Songs, which is eventually quoted in full at the conclusion of the work. Included in the collection is Bream’s 2nd working copy of the piece, with many interesting differences in fingering from the original published copy.

A selection of Bream’s hand-written transcriptions of works by Weiss, Tárrega and Cimarosa

As well as commissioning new work, Bream made great strides in increasing the breadth and depth of the music available for guitar through his work as an editor and arranger. Included in the exhibition are a selection of the guitarist’s own handwritten arrangements of pieces for the solo guitar, including works by Tárrega, Weiss, Cimarosa, Albéniz and Granados. His recordings and performances of pieces like these went a long way to establishing many of them as staples of the guitar repertoire.

For anyone interested in learning more about Julian Bream’s fascinating career, an excellent place to start is the feature-length DVD ‘Julian Bream: My Life in Music‘ (available in the library at the DVD class-mark PER: BRE).

Accessing the Collection

The collection is held in closed access, but specific items of interest can be retrieved by library staff. The contents are currently being catalogued to item level on the Jerwood Library catalogue and may be browsed by choosing ‘Julian Bream Collection’ from the ‘Source’ option. Items of particular interest can also be browsed via the collection handlist. Viewing specific items in person during library opening hours is by appointment via jlpa@trinitylaban.ac.uk.


[1] Peter Sensier and Graham Wade, ‘Bream, Julian’ in Grove Music Online, Oxford Music Online, <https://doi.org/10.1093/gmo/9781561592630.article.03900> (accessed 26/4/18)

[2] Diana Poulton. John Dowland (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1982),447

[3] Allan Kozinn, ‘Julian Bream Sets off in  New (Old) Direction’, The New York Times Online (accessed 19/4/18)Ibid.

[4] Peter Sensier and Graham Wade, ‘Bream, Julian’ in Grove Music Online, Oxford Music Online, <https://doi.org/10.1093/gmo/9781561592630.article.03900> (accessed 26/4/18)