Leo Brouwer’s Tribute to Julian Bream and his Concerto Elegiaco

Photograph courtesy of Askonas Holt

The classical guitarist and lutenist JULIAN BREAM

The Cuban composer, conductor and guitarist, Leo Brouwer had a long and fruitful musical connection with Julian Bream,

as he expresses so eloquently in this tribute,

published on the day of his death on 14 August 2020.

This long-standing musical relationship has produced some of the finest of the guitar’s twentieth-century repertoire including Leo Brouwer’s first Sonata for solo guitar (1990) which was written for Julian Bream and premièred by Julian Bream, at Wigmore Hall, London, on 27 January 1991; but before this was Leo Brouwer’s Concerto Elegiaco (1985–1986) which was was commissioned by the BBC and Gareth Walters for Julian Bream.

Concerto Elegiaco (Concierto no. 3) for guitar and orchestra by Leo Brouwer (b. 1939) was premièred by Julian Bream, with the Langham Chamber Orchestra, conducted by Leo Brouwer, on 30 July 1986.

This fine performance of the Concerto Elegiaco was given in 2017 in Moscow with Ricardo Gallén* as soloist and Leo Brouwer conducting the orchestra.

Julian Bream was so pleased with Leo Brouwer’s Concerto Elegiaco that he asked him to write a solo sonata for him. By this time, Leo Brouwer was working on his fourth guitar concerto, the Concierto de Toronto, which was commissioned by the Toronto Guitar Society; it was premièred at the Toronto Festival on 26 June 1987, with John Williams as the soloist and Leo Brouwer conducting the orchestra. Leo Brouwer’s first Sonata for solo guitar was completed in 1990.

Leo Brouwer also made an arrangement of Albéniz’s Iberia for guitar and orchestra, premièred by Julian Bream with the BBC Philharmonic, conducted by Yan Pascal Tortelier, Royal Albert Hall, 9 September 1993. More recently, Sonata Ars Combinatoria No. 5 (2013) was commissioned by The Julian Bream Trust and premièred by Andrey Lebedev at St John’s, Smith Square, London, 4 December 2014, with both Leo Brouwer and Julian Bream present on this very special occasion.

* Riccardo Gallén has made an excellent 2-CD recording of Leo Brouwer’s first six Sonatas for solo guitar:

© Thérèse Wassily Saba 2020

5 thoughts on “Leo Brouwer’s Tribute to Julian Bream and his Concerto Elegiaco

  1. The Concerto Elegiaco is just gorgeous, and Bream’s playing (and the recording- superb!)
    of it was magisterial. Same goes for the first Sonata, in my opinion.. I think of Bream
    every day.



  2. Adding: the photo of Bream on the cover of ’20th Century Guitar 1′ from the RCA set
    catches him well, I think- he looks fierce in protecting the music! Wonder who took that
    photo.. I don’t think we’ll see his like again.


    • Dear CW,
      thank you for your comments. I agree completely, Julian Bream was a super special musician – in his own class.
      The photograph came from Julian Bream’s agents Askonas Holt but without a photographer’s name attached. I also would dearly like to know the name of the photographer. I have spent some time with others trying to calculate it, based on the instrument he is playing, similar photographs taken by known photographers, and using the amount of hair on his head as a form of time scale! I would welcome any information on the name of the photographer.
      Best wishes,


      • Thanks for the reply, and for the info on that photo; it’s good to know that it got the interest of others as well! It’s quite a telling image, I think, and I actually have it next to my desk here. 😉 Maybe someone will come forward at some point (I hope!) with more info..

        You are missed, Julian Bream.



  3. And Thank you for your blog, Therese- it’s good to hear of others who have these thoughts about JB (sorry I don’t know how to do the accents in your name).


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