Here’s a glorious blast from the past: John Williams and Julian Bream, who as a duo put out a pair of landmark studio albums in 1972 and 1974—Julian & John and Julian and John 2—as well as a live duo album in 1979, appeared on British TV in 1973, in between their two album releases, and played this propulsive version of Danza Española No. 1 from the opera La vida breve by Manuel de Falla (1876–1946). Sound and video are a little funky, but it’s a top-notch performance by the supremely talented duo. (If you’re looking for CDs of those vinyl albums, it’s easiest to purchase the two-disc Julian Bream & John Williams Together: The Ultimate Collection.)
Here’s what composer Tom Eastwood wrote of the studio recording of the piece in the liner notes for Julian & John: “Spaniards often maintain that the English do not understand their rhythms and lack the verve and passion to perform Spanish music. Falla’s piece is marked molto ritmico, but it is subtle in nuance, designed to be danced by the ballet [in the opera] rather than in the caves of Granada. Nevertheless, it has it moments of scowling excitement, into which the Anglo-Saxon duo plunges with full-blooded Iberian zest.” True!
I know what you’re thinking: “You’re not going to publish that album cover showing Bream and Williams in their “mod” togs, are you?” Of course I am! The fashion police never rest. —Blair Jackson