One of the most important and inspiring records I’ve ever discovered is Julian Bream Plays Granados and Albéniz: Music of Spain, Vol. 5. Is it the best of the lot? I can’t say, but it absolutely opened a new universe of guitar and composition for me. This album served as a gateway for an ongoing archeological dig for other Spanish and world music on guitar, and it led me to Spanish composers Francisco Tárrega, Frederico Mompou, and Fernando Sor; Brazilian composer Heitor Villa-Lobos; Paraguayan virtuoso Agustín Barrios; and Cuban composer Leo Brouwer.
On side one, Enrique Granados’ “Dedicatoria” was the first piece to capture me. Transcribed from piano, the guitar piece is as lovely and lilting as it was when it was conceived in the 19th Century. Granados’ “Danza Española No. 4” is also beautifully performed by Bream. It’s a repertoire showpiece that has been performed by Andrés Segovia and other greats. It’s a “must hear,” and it plays like a nursery rhyme from another world.
On the Isaac Albéniz side of the LP, “Suite Española Op. 47”—written in 1886 to represent different regions of Spain—is played brilliantly, and Bream exhibits his amazing ability to make the guitar sound like an orchestra by employing right-hand positions and his touch to change the timbre of the guitar in imitation of brass and woodwinds. As Segovia once commented to a student, “It sounds too much like a guitar.” I try to apply this “guitar as orchestra” philosophy to all of my guitar playing—whether it be on a nylon-string guitar or a Telecaster.