For all its popular appeal, the guitar is a difficult instrument. Legato can be a problem, depth is elusive. Yet Julian Bream achieved all of this and more in a sold-out concert Sunday night at the Kennedy Center Concert Hall.
From Bach to Rodrigo it all seemed so fresh, so natural in his hands. There were the immaculate trills and the deft fingering, the candor of his fondling of the bridge, and the delicate embroidering of sounds in the air. At the beginning, with a Pasacaille and Gigue in D by Sylvius Weiss, there was also the illusion of layers of counterpoint, of several instruments. Bream's was a virtuoso performance of the highest order.
Bach's Sonato No. 1 is a transcription of the violin work having little to do with Bach but everything to do with music. Here Bream achieved the intimacy of a salon in the expanse of the Concert Hall. There was insistent splendor in the opening movement, and frantic melancholy in the presto. And, as always, there was passion.
The guitar is also a Latin instrument, often the incarnation of that marriage of Europe and the Middle East known as Spanish music. Julian Bream's guitar moved from the austere transitional style of Sor's Fantasia Op. 30 through works by Grandos, Rodrigo, and Albeniz -- and through it all one could almost smell the orange blossoms and hear the castanets. Bravo. a