Julian Bream must be given a lion’s share of the credit for his role as progenitor of the then-lost art of lute playing (early-sixties); though of course there have been fine lutenists around for many years, none quite were able to reach the level of the ever-reliable and extraordinarily virtuosic Bream, who brought the instrument to the public fore in an unapologetic and sparklingly vital manner. His playing, even today, while perhaps not inundated with all of the years of “period” discoveries and subjective musicological philosophies that have so influenced those of the modern lute scene, are nonetheless sterling example of musicianship and interpretation at it unadulterated best.
So too the singing of Peter Pears; and while I am the first to admit that sometimes Pear’s singing bears a distasteful flavor of anachronism and datedness, in these sorts of songs he was always quite successful. Indeed, compared to some of his more plaintive crooning contemporaries (and even modern singers), he sounds downright prophetic in his style. [Let’s come out and name names: Sting!…Ed.] But most importantly, he knows this music, understands its birthright, and is able to project it in a finely-honed, sympathetic manner.
Couple this with the playing of Bream, and you have a win-win situation. The sound, recorded in Wigmore Hall (1963) and Conway Hall (1969), is excellent, and for a mere nine bucks you can have some superlative Elizabethan songs as managed by two masters, still relevant today. What else could you want?
— Steven Ritter