Born in London in 1933, guitarist and lutenist Julian Bream was given his first instrument by his father. The young artist made his official debut in Cheltenham in 1947, and was quickly hailed as one of the great talents to emerge in England in the period immediately following World War II. By the time he was 16, he had appeared in frequent recitals, BBC broadcasts, and on film soundtracks, and he had already begun to explore the Elizabethan lute repertoire. In 1951, he made his debut at London's Wigmore Hall. After studies at the Royal College of Music and a stint in the National Service, he began performing around the world, including yearly tours across the United States and Europe.
His mastery of the guitar inspired dedications from a number of notable composers, including Benjamin Britten, Sir Michael Tippett, William Walton, Peter Maxwell Davies, and Toru Takemitsu, among others. He is also noted as one of the great contemporary lutenists, and has played many solo lute recitals as well as collaborations with Peter Pears, Robert Tear, George Malcolm, Peggy Ashcroft, and his own Julian Bream Consort.
Mr. Bream is well known to television audiences. A highly successful biographical film, A Life in the Country, was premiered on BBC Television in 1976. Other important television appearances included a BBC series of master classes, and in 1984 he made an eight-part series on Spanish guitar music for Britain's Channel 4, working on location in Spain. In celebration of the 50th anniversary of his debut, the BBC dedicated a special tribute, "This is Your Life," to the guitarist, filmed after a commemorative concert at Queen Elizabeth Hall in 1997. 1991 saw the BBC radio and television broadcasts of Malcom Arnold's concerto, as well as recital and concerto performances of Takemitsu's works for guitar at London's Japan Festival. During the 1992-1993 season, Mr. Bream appeared twice at the Wigmore: once for their gala festival celebrating the hall's reopening, and once at a special concert celebrating his 60th birthday. During this period, he also toured Hong Kong, Taiwan, Korea and Japan, and performed the premiere of Leo Brouwer's arrangement for guitar and orchestra of Albéniz's Iberia at the Proms. In 1994, he made debuts in both Turkey and Israel to great acclaim, and the following year appeared on the soundtrack for the film Don Juan de Marco.
Julian Bream was awarded the Order of the British Empire in 1964 for services to music and the Commander of the British Empire in 1985. He has received honorary doctorates from the universities of Surrey and Leeds, and was elected an honorary member of the Royal Academy of Music. He has also been awarded fellowships from the Royal College of music and the Royal Northern College of Music. In 1976 he was awarded the Villa-Lobos Gold Medal by the composer's widow. In 1988 he became an Honorary Member of the Royal Philharmonic Society, and was also presented with the Royal Philharmonic Society Instrumentalist's Award in 1996.