Seen and Heard International October 2012
Three Musicians Display Empathy for John Ireland’s Music
John Ireland – Cello Sonata in G minor; Fantasy Sonata for clarinet and piano
Brahms – Trio for piano, clarinet and cello in A minor, Op 114
Octogenarian, Jeanie Moore MVO, despite her diminutive stature, punches considerably above her weight when fighting for the cause of classical music in the Plymouth area. At a time when local funding is getting increasingly more difficult to source, even in a city of almost 260,000 inhabitants situated in the South West of England, she once again has managed to bring one of the UK’s leading cellists back to the area, as part of her 20th International Concert Series, an on-going programme that has seen a large number of acclaimed artists come to the city over many years.
It was, however, no accident that she chose Julian Lloyd Webber for this special concert to commemorate the 50th Anniversary of the death of British composer, John Ireland’s. As she announced to the sell-out audience at the start of the recital, as a concert-organiser of many years’ standing, she had been able to give Lloyd Webber the opportunity for one of his earliest recitals, when he was a mere twenty-two years old.
There was, though a further connection in that Lloyd Webber had recently agreed to become President of Plymouth Music Accord (PMA), a local charitable organisation with a remit to promote the appreciation and performance of music, especially among the young in the city area.
As if to cement this association even further, one young person to benefit early on from PMA’s Young Musicians’ Platform initiative was local clarinettist and now a professional artist in his own right, Peter Cigleris, who joined Lloyd Webber and highly-acclaimed pianist and chamber musician John Lenehan for this special event.
Having actually compiled the programme notes for this recital, there’s often nothing more irritating than hearing artists merely regurgitate, by way of a spoken preamble, what the listener is already at liberty to read in his or her own time.
But when this consists of a succinctly-delivered anecdotal snippet, then such a brief introduction can immediately break the ice, too, even if Lloyd Webber’s reception was already of the warmest kind possible.
Lloyd Webber went on to mention a connection between John Ireland, and the Welsh author and mystic, Arthur Machen. Ireland was apparently on London’s Charing Cross station when ‘The House of Souls’ caught his eye at a book kiosk. With his interest in long-gone races, rites and prehistory, the composer immediately identified with the stories within, both in content and style, and subsequently it became a regular complaint by him that critics could never appreciate his music, unless they had first read and understood Machen’s work.
It is customary for solo pianists and vocalists to play from memory, but for other instrumentalists the situation is more flexible. However there was absolutely no doubt that Lloyd Webber’s decision to play Ireland’s Cello Sonata without the barrier of a music-stand, added immensely to the expressive richness of the performance, and all the more so, in linking the work’s musical content with the essential spirit of Machen’s writing. Here both player and composer were absolutely as one, in a performance that was technically unblemished, with superb dynamic control and attention to detail – string-playing of the very highest order.
While clarinettist, Cigleris, opted to use music for his performance of Ireland’s Fantasy Sonata, never once did the physical presence of the score interfere with an equally emotionally-charged reading. Here, too, was immaculate playing, in a work of highly-concentrated ideas, couched in a richly-romantic garb, and unquestionably showing the composer’s clear love for the instrument, to him the finest of the woodwind section.
Although the evening was primarily all about John Ireland, it gave all three artists a wonderful opportunity to combine, and there can hardly be a better vehicle for their respective instruments than Brahms’s Trio for clarinet and cello in A minor.
From the opening bars it was obvious that there was a real empathy between each instrumentalist, which showed not only in an impeccable ensemble, but where shared musical shaping and phrasing played such an important part, throughout each of its four highly-characterised movements.
Furthermore, it emphasised the outstanding performance throughout the evening from pianist, Lenehan, who played with immense power yet great sensitivity too, managing to coax as much as possible from the not-overly responsive small grand, with its restricted tonal palette. Lenehan was undoubtedly the evening’s unsung hero – something clearly very much appreciated by his listeners.
Philip R Buttall
Classicalsource.com September 24, 2012
Julian Lloyd Webber & John Lenehan at Wigmore Hall – Ireland and Delius
Ireland -Sonata in G minor for Cello and Piano
Delius – Caprice and Elegy, Romance, Sonata for Cello and Piano
The anniversaries of two composers and the cellist connecting them were marked in this BBC Radio 3 Lunchtime Concert at Wigmore Hall. The 50th-anniversary of John Ireland’s death and the 150th-anniversary of the birth of Frederick Delius are relatively well documented; though it could be argued neither has properly had the coverage in concert halls that they deserve, even this year. Binding the works of the two together is the cellist Beatrice Harrison, born 120 years ago, the dedicatee of the Delius’s Sonata and his Caprice and Elegy, and who gave the first performance of Ireland’s Sonata in 1924.
Julian Lloyd Webber is a passionate advocate of both these composers, and with regular accompanist John Lenehan has a long standing familiarity with each work, and indeed discovered Delius’s Romance in 1976. This early composition from 1896 bears some similarity to the shorter works by Fauré for cello and piano, and here was given a sunny countenance and warm tone, its main melody lightly elusive but attractive.
The mood was in direct contrast to the Ireland, which initially complemented the rainstorm outside, with glowering low-register cello statements and assertive interventions from Lenehan. Gradually the gloomy mood dissipated, with a whispered aside marking the intimate second theme of the first movement, its marking of ‘secreto’ perfectly observed. Lloyd Webber’s tone throughout this was probing in the mid-register, and the high notes were completely secure as the ending of each faster movement somehow negotiated its way in to G major.
Delius’s Caprice and Elegy is from 1930 and is much more concise than the Romance, the Caprice part especially effective with its tumbling five-note motif which was given by Lenehan in a beautiful pianissimo. Lloyd Webber’s cantabile line gave the melody a light touch, and the chromatic Elegy was soft-hearted but profound.
Delius’s Cello Sonata is a single movement in three sections, each with long-breathed tunes that need to be followed from the outset, lest listeners feel they are cutting-in to the middle of a conversation. The sweeps of melody and wandering harmonies went well together in this performance, though the relative lack of fast music made the dynamic observations all the more telling. The beautiful falling theme that becomes the Sonata’s calling card was affectionately played, the piece building to a triumphant conclusion.
The appropriate encores were Ireland’s arrangement of his song The Holy Boy, followed by Lloyd Webber’s transcription of the equally well-loved Sea Fever. Both were given with obvious affection, showing that Ireland’s melodic genius is ultimately to be found in shorter form, with his longer works reserved perhaps for more personal insights.
John Amis Online
John Ireland in Chelsea 14th July 2012
Was the composer John Ireland a petit maître? True, his songs and piano pieces are the best of him, and he composed no operas or symphonies. But there is nothing small about some of his marvellous chamber music: his Cello Sonata, played on the last evening (25th June) of a mini-festival of Ireland and Co, mostly in St. Luke’s Church, Chelsea, where he was organist for twenty years, is a big-boned piece, well structured, written in 1924 in a mood of grieving and raging about the Great War, lyrical, richly chromatic and demanding virtuosity from its performers Julian Lloyd Webber and John Lenehan, and concentration from its audience. It got both. The work that followed, the second of Ireland’s Piano Trios, is the achievement of a master, not a petit maître.
Another master work was his substantial number for piano, not quite finished but a great piece, typical Ireland, but also at times, influenced by Ravel and even looking forward to Messiaen. It is on a big scale and has been titled Ballade of London Nights but could be called a sonata in one movement. It was scaled and conquered with some fine pianism by Maria Marchant. There was also music excellently played by the East London Brass and good singing from the Addison Singers conducted by the Festival director, David Wordsworth. Music was also included in the other concerts by Ireland’s teacher, Stanford and his pupils, one of which was by Ireland’s friend, Alan Bush. A work by the latter was his unaccompanied choral piece which Bush wrote describing and lamenting Lidice a Czech village which the Germans completely erased as reprisal for the assassination of the Nazi boss, Heydrich. It was first performed in Czechoslovakia on the actual site where Lidice had been (I was a temporary member of the Workers Music Association so the sad music brought back memories).
Many songs were sung superbly by Roderick Williams, the baritone whose singing and artistry are at their peak now. And of course he included that memorable, popular and fine song Sea Fever. It remains Ireland’s best known piece, as is Stanford’s haunting Bluebird in his oeuvre. I don’t suppose Ireland’s music will ever be as popular or as much played as the big boys of British music but there will always be some who will savour much of his oeuvre. This festival was a welcome remainder of a true maître, petit or grand.
Music Web January 2005
John Ireland: Violin Sonata No. 1; Trio No. 2; Cello Sonata in G minor
For recordings of the chamber music of John Ireland, they don’t come any better than this one. With an all-star lineup of British musicians, this recording joins performances of Ireland’s passionate Violin Sonata in D minor from 1909, his towering Piano Trio in E from 1917, his powerful Cello Sonata in G minor from 1923, and as a charming coda, a cello arrangement of Ireland’s setting of the carol The Holy Boy. Violinist Daniel Hope plays with stunning technique and cellist Julian Lloyd Webber plays with staggering virtuosity. But the star performer here is pianist John McCabe, who plays with utmost sympathy and understanding and absolute and complete conviction. For listeners who find the music of Holst and Vaughan Williams a bit too provincial, this disc of Ireland’s chamber music is a bracing reminder of the internationalism in English music in the last days of the British Empire. ASV’s digital sound is fresh and immediate.
Gramophone January 2005
Ireland Cello Sonata
Not everything on this disc is new. Many readers will already know Julian Lloyd Webber’s deeply felt version of Ireland’s marvellous Cello Sonata (1923) with John McCabe. A quarter of a century after it was made, the recording still sounds extremely well, as does these artists’ big-hearted 1987 recording of The Holy Boy in the composer’s arrangement.
No, the real reason for investigating this ASV release are the finely prepared recordings (from December 2003) of the First Violin Sonata (1 908-09) and Second Piano Trio (1917). Lloyd Webber and McCabe are joined for the latter by Daniel Hope for a trenchant performance of this single- movement work, which owes its defiant character to the appalling events of the First World War: you can almost see the marching troops in the grim strut of the Allegro giusto some four minutes in. Like the Cello Sonata, this intensely poignant score shows him at the peak of his powers.
The earlier Violin Sonata No 1 is less troubled — and the thematic material isn’t as distinctive as that of the Trio — but a stylish and lyrically rewarding work nonetheless: anyone who responds to the Fauré or Grieg sonatas should feel at home. Hope and McCabe do it proud. Like Lydia Mordkovitch and Ian Brown before them, theirs is an expansive, no-holds-barred conception that doesn’t toy with the music; nor do they overlook the vein of wistful intimacy that makes both Frederick Grinke’s 1945 recording with the composer and Paul Barritt’s 1995 account with Catherine Edwards so memorable. As in the Trio, the sound is generally first class, if occasionally hard- edged. I wonder if Hope and McCabe could be persuaded to give us the intoxicating Second Violin Sonata of 1917?
BBC Music Magazine December 2004
John Ireland Cello Sonata Review
IRELAND Violin Sonata No.1 in D minor;
Piano Trio No.2 in E; Cello Sonata in G minor; The Holy Boy
Daniel Hope (violin), Julian Lloyd Webber – (cello), John McCabe (piano)
ASV Gold GW 4009 New/Reissue
(1979.1987) 69:23 mins
Julian Lloyd Webber and John McCabe’s excellent accounts of the Cello Sonata and The Holy Boy date from 1979 and 1987 respectively, but the bulk of this disc is occupied by new recordings of Ireland’s First Violin Sonata and Second Piano Trio. In these they are joined by Daniel Hope, who has rapidly made a name for himself as one of the most outstanding young British violinists, and listening to his interpretation of the Sonata one sees why.
Strictly speaking this expansive, comparatively early work, occasionally redolent of Brahms and Stanford, is nor among John Ireland’s most important utterances, for all that it won a Cobbett Prize in 1909. But Hope and McCabe make the most of its assured handling of both instruments and invest its invention with elegance as well as passionate intensity, and Hope’s firm, golden tone adds lustre to the somewhat conventional melodic idiom.
The brooding and restless Second Trio of 1917, a compact single-movement piece much affected by thoughts of the war in the trenches, is also powerfully done – the march tune which Ireland referred to as ‘the boys going over the top’ has a dogged nobility rather than the jauntiness which can ruin its effect. Lloyd Webber’s eloquent and mercurial playing in the Cello Sonata, a quintessential Ireland piece in its mingling of playfulness and elegy, make this a most satisfying release.
SOUND (Sonata,Trio) *****
(The rest) ****
Fanfare Magazine January 2003
Ireland Cello Sonata
IRELAND Violin Sonata No. I in d. Cello Sonata in G
Piano Trio No. 2 in E
The Holy Boy
John McCabe (pn); Daniel Hope (vn); Julian Lloyd-Webber (vc)
Someday, John McCabe will have his due. A really fine composer and an important administrative figure, here he’s back at the ivories in the service of neglected music by someone else. John Ireland has had several pianistic champions, and his work was covered quite well by Lyrita in the LP days, but McCabe has the edge on previous players of this repertoire through technique, sympathy, and imagination. Hear him in the middle section of the early (1908—09) Violin Sonata’s slow movement: real depth and sustained atmosphere. McCabe’s partners share in creating this intense, dedicated mood. Hope’s tone isn’t always caught at its best by studio microphones, but he has the measure of this late-Romantic half-hour, filled with entirely personal, often dancing tunes, written at the time of the great innovations of Busoni and Schoenberg.
Lloyd-Webber has some more memorable material to hand in the 1923 Cello Sonata (though not in the dreary carol arrangement that ends the CD). The themes, structural logic, and emotional power all come together in this compelling piece, and Lloyd-Webber strikes the right tone all through, somewhere between ecstasy and anguish. The freedom and the cultured tone and phrasing could only come from artists wholly convinced of the quality of this uneasy music. The final climax often sounds strained, but McCabe and Lloyd Webber are right on the money. The one-movement Trio of 1917 can sound even darker, with bitter, regimented marching figures expressing Ireland’s dismay at trench warfare and its implications. Ten minutes in. the work’s forward impetus dissipates, leaving the cellist to some quiet. soulful ruminations, then a remarkable splintered dialogue with his colleagues. The last couple of minutes rally for a more upbeat march, but the message of the final string upsurge is still “Why?” This Trio is another of the composer’s best works.
Played badly, Ireland can meander like a stream of more miserable Delius. The expressive potential just soaks away, and I have spent 35 years unconvinced, probably as a result. This well thought-out ASV disc would make a very good place for unbelievers to start their Ireland studies.
Penguin GUide to CDs 2000/1
British Cello Music Vol.2
‘British cello music’, Vol. 2
(with John McCabe, piano): STANFORD: Sonata No. 2, op. 39.
BRIDGE: Elegy; Scherzetto. IRELAND: Sonata in G min.
The Stanford Second Cello sonata (1893 — written between the Fourth and Fifth Symphonies) is revealed here as an inspired work whose opening theme flowers into great lyrical warmth on Lloyd Webber’s ardent bow. The focus of the recording is a little diffuse, but that serves to add to the atmosphere. Ireland’s Sonata, too, is among his most richly inspired works, a broad-spanning piece in which ambitious, darkly intense outer movements frame a most beautiful Poco largamente. Again Lloyd Webber, who has long been a passionate advocate of the work, conveys its full expressive power. The Bridge Elegy (written as early as 1911) is another darkly poignant evocation which points forward to the sparer, more austere style of the later Bridge, and the Scherzetto (even earlier, 1902) makes a winning encore: it should ideally have been placed at the end of the recital. John McCabe is a sympathetic partner — in spite of the balance — but this collection offers what are among Lloyd Webber’s finest performances on disc.
Fanfare June 1997
BRITISH CELLO MUSIC, Volume I & II
Julian Lloyd Webber’s performances of British music always carry the imprimatur of authority. and transmit a palpable sense of conviction that never fails to win new devotees to this area of the cello literature. I am especially happy, then, to welcome these splendid offerings back to the catalogs. Lloyd Webber is an artist of missionary enterprise, and his playing is underpinned by a technical assurance that vouchsafes his preeminence as the foremost living exponent of England’s cellistic oeuvre. As a result of his advocacy, works like those collected on these two ASV issues arc increasingly seen as being emblematic of a unique nationalistic subgenre. That these two CDs embrace between them no fewer than six world-premiere recordings bespeaks as much. But that the music is played with such understanding, affection, and profundity of utterance outstrips regular expectations.
Britten’s Third Suite dates from the spring of 1971, and was premiered by Rostropovich (for whom the previous two Suites and the Cello Symphony were also written) in December 1974. The present performance, which dates from August 1979, is of special import, since it was in fact the first commercial recording of the piece, and it still holds its own in an increasingly competitive field. Julian Lloyd Webber’s account has both the pliant elasticity and the requisite expressive insights to make the most of its frisson and fantasy, but there is a deeper, darker, more elegiac core to this music. Britten’s implementation of the Kontakion, the Russian Orthodox hymn for the departed, is well documented, as is his decision to include an alternative version from English liturgy, and Julian Lloyd Webber plays the English Hymnal interpolation here. The Thema “Sacher,” an intriguing, unaccompanied cryptogram on the letters S-A-C-H-E-R, honored the conductor on the occasion of his seventieth birthday in 1976. A slight sixty-two seconds in duration, the current performance evidences Britten’s ingenuity in the genre, and the playing is magical. Alan Rawsthome’s cello sonata of 1949 (pithy, driven, sometimes truculent, but never crass), makes clever use of recurrent, cyclic themes as earlier motifs are revisited in the Finale: at the time of writing, no other recording exists, so a reading of this quality is the more welcome for its reappearance. The pianist here. and in the remaining accompanied works discussed here (in fact, there is only one other in the case of the first of these two discs, and that is a beguilingly enraptured account of John Ireland’s The Holy Boy) is the pianist and composer John McCabe, with whom Julian Lloyd Webber has enjoyed an especially fruitful collaboration.
The remaining solo works here are by Sir Malcolm Arnold and Sir William Walton. The former’s 1987 Fantasy for solo cello is, in my view, a splendid addition to the repertoire. Cast in seven highly contrasted movements, its sophistication lurks behind an inscrutability that Hugo Cole describes as “Chinese economy of means.” It is an apt description, and Lloyd Webber’s account (still the only one in the catalog) focuses skillfully on the composer’s desire to draw out the naturalistic, rather than virtuosic, side of the instrument’s persona. The Walton Passacaglia is built along traditional lines (eight-measure theme and ten variations); it condenses Altonian severity and acerbity down to a solitary instrumental voice, and does so masterfully. This performance is mesmeric.
The second release is devoted to fine readings from both artists of sonatas by Sir Charles Villiers Standford and John Ireland, and two characteristic miniatures by Frank Bridge. The Sonata in G Minor by John Ireland (1923) has been examined in these pages in context of the Marco Polo disc from Raphael Wallfisch and John York (Marco Polo 8.223718). Much as 1 found a lot to admire here (the program is a valuable one, also including the Edmund Rubbra sonata in G Minor, op. 60, and the superb A-Minor Sonata by E. J. Moeran). there remains, on comparison with this ASV version, a degree of blandness and discernible reluctance at times to probe much beyond the outer veneer of the notes. Hence, Julian Lloyd Webber’s playing has instantly more appeal and commu- nicative depth, and John McCabe’s management of the taxing piano part is a model of restraint? perhaps it takes a composer well versed in the ways of both instruments to make this music really work texturally? Of the Bridge pairing, Lloyd Webber relates in his insert note his happenstance discovery of the Scherzetto in a collection of manuscripts at the Royal College of Music, London. He gave the modern premiere of the piece, seventy-seven years after its composition, in April 1976; this slight but delicious encore piece is an ideal foil to the somber mood of the preceding Elegy, dating from 1905. Both performances arc admirable. The other large-scale work is the majestic and uncommonly Brahmsian Second Sonata (op. 93?1893) by Stanford. This work, as deserving of a niche in the repertoire as the similarly neglected Elegiac Variations by Sir Donald Francis Tovey (played quite decently by Rebecca Rust and David Aptcr on Marco Polo 8.223637), receives a robust and impassioned performance here. and. like several of the works contained on these ASV issues, is otherwise unavailable. To sum up. Julian Lloyd Webber’s striking and compelling performances arc of consistent excellence, and recorded sound is likewise entirely serviceable. My only gripe is that the labels with which he is associated, ASV and Philips, have yet to recognize both the musical significance and commercial viability of this area of the cello literature. If they were to relent, however, they would find no better artist for the task than Julian Lloyd Webber, whose performances may be unreservedly commended.
Classic CD – British Music Vol.2 CD
CLASSIC CD (April 1993)
Bridge: Elegy (1905); Scherzetto (1902);
Ireland: Cello Sonata in G minor (1923);
Stanford: Cello sonata No. 2, Op. 39 (1893); String Quartet No. 2 (1907-13)
Julian Lloyd Webber (cello); John McCabe (piano)
Julian Llovd Webber and John McCabe continue their survey of British celio music, begun with an enterprising recital of works by Britten, Rawsthorne, Ireland, Amold and Walton (ASV DCA592). This second volume is notable above all for the worid premiere recordings of Stanford’s sonata and tbe Bridge Scherzzetto, both of which receive sympathetic and persuasive readings. Whether they’ll launch in to the active repertoire of other players remains to be seen. I rather suspect they won’t, though the Bridge makes a splendid encore piece.
The Stanford is an admirable, large-scale work with clear debts to Brahms, but without quite his intensity of characteristic ardour or melodic flair. Still, the cello repertoire isn’t yet so large that such works can be justifiably ignored. Lloyd Webber’s eloquence and commitment are matched by McCabe’s authority and verve, though both players could fruitfully adopt a wider range of dynamic and colours.
The recording quality is superior throughout, the remastered Ireland sonata – from 1979 – holding its own against the more recent Stanford and Bridge.
The Strad February 1993
Beatrice Harrison Memorial Concert – Wigmore Hall
Julian Lloyd Webber (cello)
Another English memorial took place on 9 December in a packed Wigmore Hall – Julian Lloyd Webber’s tribute to Beatrice Harrison.
Elgar’s biographer, Jerrold Northrop Moore, one of the few people still alive today who heard Beatrice play, gave an interesting address, describing Lloyd Webber as an inheritor of her style: ‘One wasn’t aware of fingers and wood – only of the music itself.’ Having heard Harrison on disc, it may be hard to view the self-effacing Webber as a descendant, but, leaving aside the glissandi and rubato of her time, he is certainly capable of revealing the music itself in an unusual way: in his performance of the Adagio from Elgar’s Concerto he exposed the structure in all its remarkable transparency and simplicity. Particularly striking was the Delius Sonata, a rhapsodic work which Webber managed to anchor, playing with unfailing beauty but not a trace of indulgence. His note on the Ireland Sonata, linking it with the novels of Arthur Machen, who wrote of ‘that strange borderland, lying somewhere between dreams and death’, threw a powerful if ominous new light over the work, and he found his most eloquent moments in the sustained, mauve-coloured phrases on D and G strings. Enormously enjoyable was Cyril Scott’s virtuosic Pastoral and Reel, for which Margaret Harrison was welcomed affectionately on stage to help John Lenehan with the accompaniment. Bridge’s Scherzetto is an encore Harrison herself would have played, and Webber attacked it with alacrity, showing that his English heritage isn’t just serious, beautiful and unsentimental.
Gramophone February 1993
Stanford, Bridge, Ireland
“Lloyd Webber and McCabe give what seems to me an ideal performance, for they pursue it with great flair, imagination and strength. I recommend this disc unreservedly.”
BBC Music Magazine January 1993
British Cello Music Vol.2 CD
Stanford:Cello Sonata No.2
Ireland: Cello Sonata in G minor
Bridge: Elegy; Scherzetto
Julian Lloyd Webber (cello), John McCabe (piano)
Put simply, this is just marvellous cello playing. Julian Lloyd Webber joins forces again with the pianist John McCabe to produce a second volume of British music for cello and piano. This disc includes three world premiere recordings, two works by Frank Bridge and the wholly remarkable Second Cello Sonata in D minor by Stanford. Written in 1893, Stanford’s three-movement sonata could almost stand as the third cello sonata that Brahms never wrote. The expansiveness of the music draws passionate but beautiful playing from Lloyd Webber, lyrical at the top of the register but also particulalry resonant at the bottom. Bridge’s Elegy is wistful rather than tragic like Faure’s sombre Elegie.
The surprise on this disc is Bridge’s Scherzetto, written in 1902. Lloyd Webber discovered it in the library of the Royal College of Music while still a student there, giving its first performance in only 1979. It is a brilliant, virtuoso work full of skittish zest which Lloyd Webber controls impressively; a perfect piece for an encore.
Ireland’s Sonata written in 1923 is more conventional, but receives a highly committed performance from Lloyd Webber and the admirably neat-fingured John McCabe.
The Daily Telegraph 20th November 1980
Julian Lloyd Webber
IT IS some time since London has had an opportunity to hear a programme of works for cello and piano by four of our most distinguished composers, performed with such authenticity and technical perfection as was the case at Wigmore Hall last night.
In Ireland’s Sonata in G minor (1923) Julian Lloyd Webber and Eric Parkin displayed instrumental mastery in projecting the strong and eloquent themes. A wonderful effect was achieved by Mr Parkin’s sustained and satisfying line in the haunting principal theme of the slow movement following on from Mr Lloyd Webber’s incisive opening. This finale had an unusual strength, drive and attack from both players.
A similar sense of purpose marked their handling of the long crescendo in Bridge’s Elegie (1911) and in his arresting Scherzetto (c. 1902), recently discovered at the Royal College of Music and a first London performance. Delius’s rarely heard Sonata. (1916) brought Eric Fenby on to the platform. This imaginative pianist, who was the composer’s amanuensis from 1928 until his death, provided a close yet independent partnership with Mr Lloyd Webber’s rich tone. On his own in Britten’s Suite, Mr Lloyd Webber, who incidentally performed the very testing programme without musuc, showed how mature his art has become.
The Guardian 11th November 1980
NO MORE dedicated advocate of English cello music has emerged in recent years than Julian Lloyd-Webber, and it was good to find him attracting a large audience for what a few years ago might have seemed a very specialised programme of Ireland, Delius, Bridge and Britten.
True, it was Britten’s Third Cello Suite for solo cello which at the end of the programme conveyed a degree of concentration in the argument largely missing till then. One might have expected that in his third essay in this inevitably restricted form Britten’s inspiration would have contracted, but Lloyd-Webber if anything more than the dedicatee, Rostropovich, proves the opposite with eight movements, jewelled in their compression, leading to the culminating passacaglia and epilogue.
As a splendid start to the programme came the G minor Cello Sonata of John Ireland with Eric Parkin, long dedicated to the music of this composer, matching Lloyd Webber in responding to the taut, neurasthenic side of the composer as well as the relaxed warmth of the all-too-brief central slow movement.
For Delius’s elusive Cello Sonata the doyen of Delians, to whose toils we actually owe the last works, Eric Fenby, added his unique authority. Alas, unlike the Double Concerto written about the same time, it is a work which meanders even in a performance as persuasive as this.
The Financial Times 20th November 1980
Julian Lloyd Webber
Along the road to celebrity, Julian Lloyd Webber has found the space and time to make a speciality of English cello music of the first half of the 20th century. The niche suits his generous tone and unabashed phrasing well; the sonatas by Ireland and Delius that made up the first half of his recital at the Wigmore Hall last night require the most committed advocacy to cohere and sustain attention.
But sumptuousness may not be all. Mr. Lloyd Webber played both sonatas superbly, yet gave us in the process a surfeit of lyrical effusion. Placed so uncomfortably close in a programme, Ireland and Deblius can seem to mimic each other’s failing: a tendency to uncontrolled soliloquy in one, a want of rhythmic firmness in the other. Ireland’s sonata may be one of most powerful pieces, unerringly thematic with a fine slow movement and splendid transition to the blustering finale (both showing Mr. Lloyd Webber at his best), but it lacks definition. In structure it hangs together more obviously than Delius’s sinigle-movement sonata, but given (as here) a sure hand with the modulations of mood and temper the Delius feigns more cogency, more finality.
The pianist for the Ireland sonata and for two short pieces by Bridge was Eric Parkin, dependable and confident, but for the Delius Mr. Lloyd Webber was joined by Eric Fenby, a pleasant, unspectacular tribute to Delius’s amanuensis. Mr. Fenby handled the predominantly chordal accompaniment to the sonata most sensitively, and was surely impressed by the scope and intelligence of the cello playing.
by Andrew Clements
The Times 20th November 1980
Lloyd Webber/ Parkin/Fenby
Ken Russell’s film A Sons of Summer has recently been largely responsible for bringing to wider notice the name of Eric Fenby, the young composer who spent six years as amanuensis to the , blind and paralysed Delius. But long ago Fenby’s own published account of the episode, as well as his constant devotion to Delius’s music an enthusiasm he encourages in others through his teaching, writing and performances have brought him well-earned recognition in musical circles. And last night’s recital showed that at a sprightly 74, Fenby still remains Delius’s most faithful champion.
Together with Julian Lloyd Webber he gave a glowing account of the Cello Sonata, a work’ he claims is much misunderstood by performers. Here we were shown that its melodies can be strong and muscular as well as broad and flowing; phrases were turned tidily, shaded subtly, and an overriding continuity of thought seemed to shape the whole.
For the rest of the programme Julian Lloyd Webber was joined by Eric Parkin, a partnership that proved equally successful. John Ireland’s Cello Sonata plumbs the depths of both instruments, and both players responded with a warmth and sensibility that confirmed a special affinity with Ireland’s style.
Both the Ireland sonata and the youthful Frank Bridge pieces that followed were approahed in a positive way that is all too rare in this sort of music. Phrasing was broad and long-breathed but never overstretched; hushed chromatic harmonies lingered but never outstayed their welcome. These were convincing and assured performances.
Mr Lloyd Webber remained undaunted by Britten’s third unaccompanied Cello Suite, written for Rostropovich in 1971. The haunting Russian tunes that form its basis were given in sombre, almost funereal tones, with a folklike simplicity that contrasted well with the more manical technical exploits, where Mr Lloyd Webber impressed us in a more artful way.