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”

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  1. 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.

  2. 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.

  3. 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.

  4. 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.

  5. 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)

  6. dj says:

    Bream shits all over Segovia. And allways has,

  7. Ben Tropiansky says:

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

  8. 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.

  9. 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.

  11. 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.

  12. Kevin says:

    Age has its ups and downs.

  13. 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.

  14. 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!

  15. 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.

  16. 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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