Concert Review: Julian Bream’s First Public Recital, Cheltenham Art Gallery, 1947

By Wilfrid M. Appleby

I hope readers will not become tired of reading about Julian Bream, because they are likely to hear a lot more about this clever young guitarist. The Art Gallery at Cheltenham was filled on February 17 when he gave his first public recital. Although it was a bitterly cold day and an afternoon performance (when one might expect just a few elderly people to attend) the majority of those present were between the ages of 17 and 30.

Note: This is part of our ongoing series celebrating the legacy of Julian Bream, who passed away this year at the age of 87.

Enthusiastic guitarists came from distant parts of the country and a titled lady and her friends pushed their skidding car up ice-covered Cotswold hills rather than miss this musical event.

Julian was introduced by Mrs. Saunders-Davies, the President of the Cheltenham Guitar Circle, and he opened his programme with solos by Schumann and Bach, followed by Granados’ “Tonadilla.”

I was interested to see how the audience would receive the composition by our great English composer, Ernest Shand, but they obviously liked his delightful “Chanson.”


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The first part of the recital ended with a Paganini Sonata for guitar.

A concert study by the French guitarist Napoleon Coste and “Granada” by Albéniz opened the second part. Sor’s “Theme and Variations” was well played in spite of Julian’s cold fingers.

Then came the item which the guitarists in the audience had been eagerly awaiting—Terry Usher’s “Sonata in A.” The beautiful tranquility of the opening theme; the clever rendering of the minuet-like second movement; and, finally, the increasingly exciting passacaglia—all this was brilliantly played by this boy of thirteen years.

No wonder the audience sat enraptured and then burst out in a great ovation of applause.

In the hands of Julian Bream the classical guitar has scored a new triumph. The local newspaper had a good report of the recital on its front page under the appropriate heading: “Boy Guitarist Impresses in Local Debut.”

This review originally appeared in the April 1947 issue of BMG magazine and was reprinted in the November-December 1983 issue of Classical Guitar.