Performers seldom get to make their own choices for a greatest-hits collection, so the fact that guitarist and lutenist Julian Bream selected the tracks for this double disc of his most essential recordings is significant. No doubt, RCA could have picked any number of excellent and popular recordings from Bream's large catalog and produced a terrific compilation, but letting him comb through the archives permits listeners to appreciate his most personally meaningful and satisfying performances from his long career. While recordings of flashy guitar pieces by Tárrega
, and Rodrigo
would naturally find their place on a best-of disc, the less familiar works by William Walton, Malcolm Arnold, and Benjamin Britten -- all composed for Bream -- might have been overlooked by a less imaginative producer; the lute recordings, which never achieved the same fame as the guitar performances, might have been neglected, as well. But along with the expected tracks are Walton's intricate "Five Bagatelles," the Lento from Arnold's colorful "Guitar Concerto," and Britten's charming Courtly Dances from his opera "Gloriana"; and Bream's performance on lute with harpsichordist George Malcolm
of J.S. Bach
's "Trio Sonata No. 1 in E flat major" is a special treat. RCA's sound is well-balanced and quite even through the program, with little variance in tone or volume, despite the different recording dates, which range from 1959 to 1990.