Of late, Julian Bream, who became famous as a lutenist, has divided his time in concerts between the lute and the guitar. On Saturday at the Kennedy Center Concert Hall, the switch became complete and he devoted the entire evening to the guitar.
Neither his programming nor his approach to the instrument is bound up in the guitar mold, however. This concert was evenly split between a late-Baroque first half and a 20th-century second, and for the Baroque music, Bream's playing took on a lightness and a meticulousness that combined the virtues of both a lute touch and harpsichord agility. Bream does not slide around the fingerboard or scatter rubatos wantonly throughout the music.
A suite by de Vise'e, pieces by Weiss and a stunning transcription of Bach's Partita in E for violin had the sort of leisurely sense of exploration that allowed structures to unfold and lines to maintain their integrity.
The second half of the program opened with a set of rather dull bagatelles by Walton but moved on to a splendid one-movement sonata by Berkeley, written last summer for Bream. It is in two major sections, the first of which explores a marvelous collection of sounds in a rather improvisatory fashion, and a second, more explicitly organized and more lyrical one that wraps things up nicely.
Three fine Spanish pieces by Roderico, with Baroque roots, and the almost obligatory "Fantasia" by Turina ended the evening with Bream, true to his inclinations, resisting the traditional stylistic exaggerations.