New York Guitar Festival 2021 Celebrates the Life and Contributions of Julian Bream

By Mark Small

This year’s New York Guitar Festival marked the legacy of the late, great British classical guitarist and lutenist Julian Bream with three online concerts per day between July 14–20. David Spelman is the artistic director of the festival titled “Remembering Julian Bream,” which showcased three generations of top performers presenting renditions of music championed by Bream ranging from the Renaissance to the 20th Century as well as premieres of 21st Century works. Many of the players offered memories of their first introduction to the artistry of Bream, including Sharon Isbin (above) recalling the impact of taking a lesson with Bream at 14, and Pepe Romero, Thomas Thomas Kirchhoff (of the Amadeus Guitar Duo) and Eliot Fisk each speaking warmly of their personal interactions through the years with the British maestro. The 21 pre-recorded videos were shot in variety of settings ranging from the performers’ homes to ornate church or theater settings.

Among the players were Pepe Romero (“Preludes 3 and 4,” Villa Lobos), Sharon Isbin (“Capricho Árabe,” Tárrega),  Jason Vieaux (“Etude 8,” Villa Lobos), Bill Kanengiser (“Impromptus,” Richard Rodney Bennett), David Leisner (an unidentified work from the classical period), T.Y. Zhang (“Fancy no. 3,” Dowland), Amadeus Guitar Duo (transcription of a movement from a Borodin string quartet), Eliot Fisk (four Scarlatti sonatas), and Alberta Khoury (title unavailable). Pablo Sainz Villegas and Marija Temos both offered renditions of “Danza Espanola no. 5” by Granados. Dutch lutenist Jozef Van Wissem played his original work “Fancy a Nose Cap” and Derek Gripper rendered his piece for tape recorder and guitar.


Lutenists Paul O’Dette and Hopkinson Smith each acknowledged their debt to Bream for introducing them to Renaissance music for the lute and performed Francis Cutting’s setting of “Pavana Bray” (O’Dette) and Anthony Holborne’s “Fare Thee Well” (Smith).

At the time of this posting, the six pieces to be premiered are yet to be aired. On July 19 and 20 the final concerts will include new works played by their composers Benjamin Verdery, Adam del Monte, Ryan Riley, Jiji, Laura Snowden. The Newman & Oltman Guitar Duo will premiere “Through the Looking Glass” by Leo Brouwer. All concerts can be viewed for free at