All right – here’s two guitarists no one has ever accused of being machines. So who takes the Bach round? Remember that in this scenario Julian Bream is actually the upstart.

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51 Responses to “Segovia vs. Bream”

  1. christopher says:

    I prefer Bream’s attire. Sky blue suit and purple tie. Nice.

  2. larryguitar says:

    This is when Segovia was older. Rough performance even by his standards. I think Bream toasts him in this comparison. Will watch Segovia next but I’ve already pretty much determined Bream the winner…

    • Rick says:

      Unfair comparison. Segovia is at least 20years past his prime in this clip, and Bream is clearly in his prime. Would love to see the same piece performed by Segovia when he was younger. In general I hate comparing artists. At the master level that Segovia and Bream are performing, one may appeal to you more than the other, but it’s strictly a matter of style and interpretation.

    • fopianki says:

      I agree with larryguitar. Segovia sounds like he is just trying to get through the music. I saw Segovia in concert twice…once in the early 70s and again in the early 80s. At the second concert you could hear the famous Segovia sound on simpler music but not on more technical pieces. Like an aging athlete, you could still see flashes of brilliance but his body was obviously starting to betray him.

    • jeff says:

      Like many others who have replied I do not feel this is a good comparison as both players were in different periods of their careers…Segovia being in the twilight of his and Bream closer to being in his prime….

      With that said, I would choose to listen to Bream over Segovia most of the time. In general I feel that his tone is better and I prefer his interpretations.

  3. Dusan says:

    This is inappropriate to compare.
    Bream is extremely knowledgeable but Segovia is one of one of the last popular Artists in music performance. it’s like a battle of acknowledgment (awareness) and sublime Art.

  4. MikeA says:

    I agree with larryguitar above. Segovia was obviously beyond his prime, and it would be nice to compare a better example of Segovia’s performance. But in this example, Bream outshines him by miles.

  5. Albert says:

    My all time favorite guitarrist is Julian Bream, however this is an unfair match. Time is totaly against Segovia. I have an old recording in vinyl of Chaconne by JS Bach played by Segovia and it is still my favorite interpretation of the piece. Even better than Bream’s. I wonder what it would be if the media (audio & video) were like today’s when Segovia recorded Chaconne. I would be a tough call.

  6. Theo Jacobs says:

    As Larryguitar already pointed out: this is not a fair comparison: Segovia is in his late 80ies here while Bream is in his 40ies. Elsewhere on youtube they both play Bach’s prelude bwv 1007, with Segovia a lot younger, that makes a better comparison.

  7. Tom J says:

    Both are men of their times and equally important to the evolution of the guitar as a serious instrument, and of the music itself. I actually prefer neither personally as a go-to listening choice—Segovia has too much rubato and delicacy, and Bream’s style feels edgy and nervous, like a sprinter twitching in the starting blocks waiting for the gun to go off. I prefer a full, rich, and emotionally compelling style. But I have learned from both and appreciate their place among the giants. My real wish is that a recording of Tarrega existed!

  8. ronjazz says:

    These appear to be two different versions of the fugue, with Segovia playing his transcription of the violin version and Bream doing his version of the lute edition. In any event, Segovia on his best days still had the turn-of-the-century romanticism that took great liberties with rubato, while Bream had escaped the sort of over-personalization of the baroque repertoire of the previous generation. Bream’s playing has a nice forward motion and rhythmic vitality, at the same time more modern and more in keeping with the way Bach and his contemporaries most likely played. I find it difficult to listen to Segovia’s recordings these days, in spite of his clear mastery and great tone, because of these stylistic distortions.

    • Peter says:

      The comparison of two absolutely great artists isn’t something that I would do ordinarily. However, given these two videos to compare, it is obvious that Maestro Segovia is already quite elderly and has some physical issues with getting around the instrument. Each plays with great musicality of course, but stylistically different. Always remember that it was Segovia who popularized the classical guitar in the 20th century. If both were around the same age at the same time in their respective careers, “then” it would have been a very different comparison I think? It would have been more like trying to compare Jascha Heifetz with Isacc Stern. Both were fantastic violinists, but both quite different in there approaches.

  9. Dave says:

    I vote for Bream – but he has always been my favorite. How lucky we are to be able to compare these two!

  10. David Allen says:

    Bream hands down.

  11. Mark says:

    Clearly Grisha Goryachev wins!!!!!

  12. minn mark says:

    AIn’t it easy when you know how. I see no value in assessing a winner. It’s all about the music, and anyone who takes the time to learn and play should be praised. Two masters at work. A joy to have these video records. GSI, thanks so much for sharing these performances.

    Now everyone, go practice !

    Viva la guitarra classico.

  13. cheezitz says:

    Lets see how Mr. Bream sounds when he’s 90.

  14. Bob Thompson says:

    Kind of like comparing apples to oranges. If this would have been a comparison of the two playing at the same age level the question of who was better might make sense. Bream obviously was a lot smoother with fewer mistakes but Segovia was well past his prime at that point. Not a fair comparison. They were both great in their prime. Please try to have comparisons where you compare them at the same relative time in their careers.

    Bream obviously won this one…but a forty year old athelete would also probably have a little edge over an eighty year old athelete!

  15. Mandito says:

    It’s really hard because simply both have their own style that are execute well in their own art. Now if you put one of these two against lets say Ana Vidovic, then fore sure Segovia or Bream will win, but against each other is like a unstoppable force meeting head to head with a unmovable object

  16. Dale Larsen says:

    Segovia has better tone in my opinion but Bream is articulating the notes better. Remember Segovia is in his late 80’s or early 90’s at this point in life, Bream is much younger. Segovia’s guitar sounds better in my opinion. I like the Ramirez tone better.

  17. Lawrence Tendler says:

    Segovia owns Bream .Segovia was simply the best.

  18. Bartok said that competition is for horses, not for artists. Both of these men were great artists and deserve our respect and admiration for what they accomplished in their careers. The whole idea of this competition is really not worthy of a class organization like GSI.

    • Kai says:

      Robert – I completely agree with you, of course, and was really just having some fun and looking for an excuse to listen to these guys. I love hearing different players interpret the same music. Interesting, though, that while most of us wouldn’t dream of having the established masters compete, we make young players do it all the time and it’s one of the established paths to becoming a maestro.

    • David says:

      By whom would you like to have your landscape painted? Everybody interprets and performs music differently. To say one great artist is better than another is a personal issue and everybody is correct… in their own mind.

  19. Lawrence Tendler says:

    Actually , pointless to compare .A bit like comparing apples and oranges .Segovia was past his best in this video.Bream is wonderful ,his beautiful sound and stylish playing. Bream is more fluent in this video ,but Segovia must have been almost ninety years old.

  20. Jerry Jackson says:

    Well obviously Segovia was having a terrible night and he is in the twilight of his career ; interpretation not withstanding .Bream is incredible , bringing to life this very difficult piece .In my opinion , no one has ever recorded this piece like Manuel Barrueco . His very straight interpretation is a masterpiece . Give it a listen !

  21. Yeah, that was rough to listen to… I’ve never been a Segovia fan when it came to technique (and I always get crucified for that). I have always been a Bream fan because he really is a master at the tone he shoots for.

    IMO = Julian Bream wins.

  22. patrick says:

    Well, not too hard for me to decide. Although this is one of Segovia’s later-in-life performances–I think Bream’s tempo, clarity and presentation of the piece makes it much more enjoyable to watch and listen to, which obviously is the whole point of music. Besides all of that…Julian Bream always seems like he is flat enjoying himself more than Segovia ever has.

  23. Knocktua says:

    Robert Bluestone hit the nail on the head.

  24. Steven says:

    I saw Segovia in recital during the mid-’80s – near the end obviously – and it was hard to see the maestro past his prime. He was still a legend, but even he should have known it was time to hang it up as far as live performance.

    He sure seemed to be fighting it – he wanted to kill, but he just couldn’t do it any more.

  25. David says:

    Oui m’sieur, would you like your landscape painted by M’sieur Monet or Van Gogh?

  26. Roger Moritz says:

    Did you hear that cough at 2:14? OUTRAGEOUS!! 🙂

    For me, a Fuga, should be somewhat mechanical and straightor even. I don’t like over-“expression” and pausing in that genre.

    Also, aside from the age difference mentioned, these two performances are very different in that Segovia is dealing with the nerves of a live audience whereas Bream could retake that little film.

    I would say the Segovia is buzzy but impressive in being live.

  27. Howard Runyon says:

    For me it’s Bream hands-down. Maybe Segovia played more cleanly in his youth…. but apart from the playing, I can’t forgive Segovia for the years that he spent trying to assassinate flamenco.

    • Kai says:

      I’m with you there – I seem to remember something about (I’m paraphrasing here) ‘trying to redeem the guitar from its association with flamenco.’ Wonder what he would have thought about some of today’s flamenco guitarists.

      • Howard Runyon says:

        Segovia didn’t just try to “redeem the guitar from its association with flamenco.” After starting out somewhat (at least) in the flamenco world–I think he played at the famous _cante jondo_ festival that GarcĂ­a Lorca and his friends organized in CĂłrdoba in 1922—he decided that the guitar’s future lay in classical music, and turned his back violently on flamenco. Among other little crimes, he tried to discredit Sophocles Pappas, a flamenco of Greek origin, whose published compositions were some of the first written flamenco solos to reach the sheet-music market. Pappas’s music is perfectly authentic in its tonality and compás. Segovia just had a compulsion to erase the instrument’s origin so that it could enjoy a shining new life in the world of “legitimate”–in other words, refined–music. And he was going to be the shining new exponent of the newly “legitimate” guitar. He was a monstrously talented musician, and a visionary… and self-serving… and mean to the cultural hand that had first fed him.

  28. John Pinno says:

    As most have noted this is obviously a very unfair comparison as Segovia was well past his prime. I saw him for the first time live in 1971 in Houston when he was two days shy of his 78th birthday, and putting up with all the Jones Hall coughers, and the Fugue was on the program that night. I had begun working on the Fugue myself and was stunned at how effortlessly and musically he glided through the piece, which to me was still very difficult. That being said though, and with all the respect in the world for what Segovia did for all of us(and yes I would agree with Albert’s comment above about the old vinyl Chaconne recording by Segovia…still get goosebumps listening to that!)I always preferred Bream’s intensity, precision, and his tone color variations in the Fugue.

  29. Otto Parets says:

    The scene reminded me of another Segovia You Tube, and it came to me. This performance was done at the US White House in 1979. Take a look at the article written of his impending performance. The original piece that led me to Segovia’s White House performance was “Guardame las Vacas”. The YouTube video of that piece is of much better quality than the one above.

    I agree with the other comments…an unfair comparison.

  30. Campbell Ross says:

    Different expectations from listeners today seems to rend Segovia’s recordings/performances to the edges nowadays – more archival than exemplary. Just out of interest, did bream ever sit and play for Segovia in a Masterclass or was it just Williams? Fascinating to be a fly on the wall as Segovia judged Breams playing!
    TKO – Bream wins (Segovia retires in the 2nd round – straight home for a lie down)

  31. dj says:

    Bream shits all over Segovia. And allways has,

  32. Ben Tropiansky says:

    What guitar is Segovia playing, his famous Hauser….and what of Bream? Bream’s guitar sounds so much brighter and alive!

  33. Roger Moritz says:

    Not really a fan of either of these renditions. Honestly never been a fan of Bream, his version is a little stiff. Segovia is older. I like older Segovia recordings.

  34. Lucas says:

    No contest here, but not exactly a fair comparison as many have noticed. Bream’s presentation is virtually flawless; from a technical standpoint Segovia has problems all over the place. Too bad we don’t have more existing video of Segovia in his youth – that would make for a better comparison.


    I think Fred would agree with me the age differemce
    was too much.

  36. Palmer Hoovestal says:

    I agree generally with all comments except that from Robert Bluestone criticizing GSI for the comparison. There’s no competition, of course. I happen to enjoy reviewing Kai’s blog and look forward to it everyday. Lighten up, Robert.

  37. Kevin says:

    Age has its ups and downs.

  38. I remember this performance because we presented Segovia that same year in Dallas. David Wolf, then the director of the Dallas Classic Guitar Society, was an invited guest. We received a complementary audio copy of the concert and I watched the video later as well. David commented at the time that is was a very different performance than the one we heard in Dallas. Even at his much advanced age, Segovia played here more like his earlier recordings. Of the 8 – 10 times I heard him in concert, most were on good days. The White House Concert is (unfortunately) an example of how he played when he was tired or not feeling well. — I also heard Bream several times in his prime. Both men had that unexplainable “something” that completely fills a room and commands absolute attention. We call it charisma and some dismiss it as hype. I have no idea what it was, but I miss it in the classical guitar world. There are many “better” players now when measured by standards of technique and training, but these two, …well, they were just “something” else.

  39. Brian Wells says:

    Bream`s guitar appears to have a spruce top whereas Segovia`s guitar has a cedar top.That would explain some of the difference in the tone of their guitars.Bream`s guitar sounds brighter and more articulate.I enjoyed the clips!

  40. gabe says:

    My teacher studied with Segovia and Bream was also a student. Segovia was famous for his interpretations of music and not for his playing or compositions. I think it silly to compare chops with an old man, much less Breams teacher who is generations apart. That being said I’m pretty sure that there are more cherished tracks from segovia. Why not compare John Williams and Breams they are more in the same league. Although Breams seams to be the choice for guitar nerds I rarely care to listen to him.

  41. larry brandes says:

    Not a fair comparison, while Segovia was still musically grand, he was very old. Now if you could compare them with equal quality films when they were the same ages, this would be an interesting comparison. I still would not judge one over the other.


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