Julian Bream: My Life in Music

Release Date: 25th Sep 2006
Catalogue No: AV2109
Label: Avie Records

Directed and presented by Paul Balmer
Produced by Judy Caine


Gramophone Magazine
January 2007
DVD of the Month

Gramophone Awards
Winner of the year - DVD


Gramophone Magazine - April 2008

"This makes it into the top five on several counts: the film was made without the constraints of television schedules and takes full advantage of the new medium; it has a generous three hours of material; its subject is as entertaining on his life and career as he is illuminating about the music he plays. It appeals as much to the specialist as to the general viewer."

“This is a splendid presentation with wide musical appeal, but to guitarists, it is an Aladdin’s cave.” - Zane Turner


Product sale for UK and international

Julian Bream, considered by many as the greatest classical guitarist of the 20th century, tells the remarkable story of his life in music. Over three hours of material, illustrated with over one hour of complete musical performances, includes contributions from John Williams, Peter Pears, Igor Stravinsky, William Walton, George Malcolm, Richard Rodney Bennett and Ali Akbar Khan.

Julian’s influence has resulted in a repertoire rich in contributions from Britten, Walton, Henze, Takemitsu, Tippett, Rawsthorne, Lennox Berkeley and countless others. He enthusiastically communicates his musical passions which are celebrated in this generously documented DVD. Highlights include Julian’s coming out of retirement for a performance of Britten’s Nocturnal, written for the guitarist, and an emotional return to the composer’s home in Aldeburgh, and an exclusive BBC Radio 3 recording of Richard Rodney Bennett’s Sonata for Solo Guitar.

Nocturnal (2:38)
Hardy’s England (1:05)
Heigh Ho Holiday (1:10)
I was born in Battersea (1:27)
My musical father (1:48)
Django and Eddie Lang (3:28)
My first Spanish guitar and meeting Segovia (5:02)
‘BMG’ and the Philharmonic Society of Guitarists (4:52)
The ‘PSG’ library (1:08)
A day boy at Royal College of Music (1:10)
Segovia 1947/Castelnuovo-Tedesco (2:43)
Saraband for Dead Lovers (1:07)
Royal College of Music – no fee! (2:43)
BBC radio and television (5:22)
Julian discovers Dowland (2:43)
Wigmore debut/Bach suites (6:48)
National Service (3:50)
Aldeburgh – meeting Britten and Pears (5:11)
George Malcolm (3:21)
Improvising as a resource (2:49)
The Julian Bream Consort (1962) (4:42)
Meeting Ali Akbar Khan (3:56)
Stravinsky – the quest for repertoire (5:00)
‘A life in the country’/cricket – a passion (5:15)
Recording at Wardour Castle (2:38)
The Renaissance and Baroque guitars (5:08)
What is essentially Spanish? (5:09)
New music for the guitar (6:05)
Aldeburgh and the writing of ‘Nocturnal’ (5:04)
De Falla ‘Homenaje’ (4:15)
Working with John Williams (3:36)
‘Come Heavy Sleep’ – ‘Passacaglia’ (8:32)

Director’s Commentary
Alternative Camera Angles

Julian recorded new interpretations of Britten’s ‘Nocturnal’ and de Falla’s ‘Homenaje’, especially for this DVD.

Bonus Features
Archive Music Clips

Dionisio Aguado – Rondo in A minor Op. 2 (6:10)
Heitor Villa-Lobos – Study No. 11 (7:10)
Thomas Morley – ‘Galliard to the Sacred End Pavan’ – Julian Bream Consort (1987) (2:13)
William Walton – Bagatelle No. 5 (2:27)

Guitarist’s Relish (‘bonus chapters’)
The ‘Nocturnal’ manuscripts (6:03)
‘1984’ and bouncing back (4:17)
My first recital and the Maccaferri guitar (1:55)
Sneaking my guitar into the Royal College of Music (4:45)
Julian’s nylons! (2:35)
RCM tutor: “Fernando Sor! … .never heard of him” (1:41)
Yuri Leschenko (1:47)
Dr. Perott’s techniques (2:35)
‘Ithaca’ (Constantine P. Cavafy, 1863 - 1933) - Julian’s favourite poem read by Jill Balcon (5:10)
‘The Makers Of…’ – directed by Brendan McCormack (10:40)
Bibliography (text only)
Discography (text only) – compiled by Judy Caine and Graham Wade
Research Notes (text only)
Guitar Timeline – a look at some guitars from the renaissance to the 20th Century

Rare Stills Photo Montage – Tárrega’s Mazurka in G (2:49)
Richard Rodney Bennett – Sonata for Solo Guitar (23:39)
Commercially released for the first time by arrangement with BBC Music – recorded in the chapel at Wardour Castle for BBC Radio 3 – 29 June 1986 – Producer Gareth Walters

Directed and presented by Paul Balmer
Produced by Judy Caine

Webmaster Notes:

julianbreamguitar.com has discussed the making of the documentary Julian Bream: My life in Music at length with Paul Balmer. The first thing he wanted me to know was how he came to direct the documentary based on Julian's life.

‘"Julian Bream attended the premiere of my film ‘Stephane Grappelli - A Life in the Jazz Century’ at London’s BAFTA premises in 2002.

"He [Julian] was enthralled by the footage of Django Reinhardt and loved the film. In the bar afterwards Julian remarked ‘’What a lovely way to do a biography - could you do mine?’ As a guitarist and long-time admirer of Julian’s work I took several nanoseconds to say ‘YES!’"

"It was the beginning of a great adventure as we together revisited all his TV and film appearances over 50 years from 10 countries. Julian chose the complete pieces that he felt best reflected his work. As part of this, we revisited ‘Guitarra’ [¡Guitarra! A Musical Journey Through Spain - an 8-part TV film series] and restored the original stereo sound recordings. Julian proudly showed me the renaissance and baroque guitars he had had made especially for that film – he kept these in his bathroom  for the humidity!’’

Paul Balmer (Director) 2021.

5-star DVD✰✰✰✰✰ - 

"this film is rather more than the conventional interview-music-interview portrait, and an all-too-rare example of how to maximise the resources of DVD. Outstanding."

BBC Music Magazine

"The finest film contribution to the classic guitar ever ... a masterpiece."

Graham Wade (Writer, classical guitarist, teacher, scholar and researcher )

"A magical two hours"

Classical Music (by BBC Music Magazine)

" … perfectly encapsulates a noble musician who takes what he does incredibly seriously … highly compelling viewing"

International Record Review

5-star DVD✰✰✰✰✰ - 

“… Essential viewing … for all classical guitar enthusiasts  …” 

Guitar Techniques

5-star DVD✰✰✰✰✰ - ˜˜˜˜˜ 

"a music DVD Masterpiece … anyone interested in the history of the guitar in the 20th Century will be stunned and delighted … fabulous."

Record Collector Review

˜˜˜˜˜5 Star DVD ✰✰✰✰✰ - ˜˜˜˜ "

… well made, interesting documentary paints an affectionate portrait of perhaps the greatest of living classical guitarists."

Classic FM Magazine

 “An excellent 123-minute profile… great archival footage … good performance sequences … stereo surround sound is smooth and rich … video image is crisp, with vivid colors.”

DVD-LaserDisc Newsletter

  “… enjoy this beautifully produced biopic of a superbly sensitive artist for the pleasure and insights it provides …” Classical Guitar Magazine


Sir David Attenborough