The Guardian 15th December 1987
Edward Greenfield on Malcolm Arnold’s cello premiere
MALCOLM ARNOLD, colourful and prolific among British composers, has been losing out on both those qualities in recent years. But here, in the Fantasy for solo cello he has written for Julian Lloyd Webber he has bounced back with a work generous and direct, exuberant in the way it draws out all the richest and warmest qualities of the instrument. This is a composer, one infers from every note, who loves the cello.
It was good to have Lloyd Webber’s world premiere in his recital at Wigmore Hall anticipated by an equally fine recording, already available from ASV. Not that with Arnold’s Fantasy you need the sort of intensive preparation that many of today’s composers seem to demand for their new works.
Arnold, the supreme professional, has managed to write music which gives the soloist plenty of chances to show off effectively without posing thorny technical problems.
Where so many solo cello works from Bach onwards are gritty with double-stopped chords that try to imitate a full orchestra, Arnold in his seven brief linked movements puts the emphasis on warmly lyrical writing.
Lloyd Webber responded accordingly, pointing up the sharp contrasts of tone and dynamic that Arnold has marked to avoid blandness, biting hard on the vigorous writing in the central AlIa Marcia.
So graceful a work, I am sure, will quickly become a favourite with cellists badly needing solo music that exploits the instrument without either sawing off players’ fingers or listeners’ ears.
For the rest of his recital, Lloyd Webber was accompanied by Peter Pettinger in music for cello and piano.
The ardour of the performance of the Arnold led at once to an equally resonant and dramatic account of Beethoven’s last Cello Sonata, opus 102 no. 2, sometimes counted a problem work but not here.
Beethoven in this context seemed to tower over anything the 20th century could offer – even the Debussy Sonata – cryptic, compressed, made to sound in Lloyd Webber’s gutsy performance almost as English as the pieces by Bridge and Rawsthorne with which he surrounded it.
Financial Times 10th June 1974
Beethoven Cello Sonata in A major
‘…with Clifford Benson as his pianist, Mr Lloyd Webber played Beethoven’s A Major sonata with fluent ease, strong and even tone, and remarkable certainty in those high passages where more experienced players make the listener wince.’
Daily Telegraph 13th March 1973
Beethoven Cello Sonata in G minor
Sharing this ISM concert was the cellist Julian Lloyd Webber with his partner at the piano, Clifford Benson.
The slow introduction to Beethoven’s Sonata in G minor had a spontaneous quality which was owed to care taken for exact dynamics. Both players command big tones and have excellent rhythm. An intensely poetic performance of the Delius Sonata showed the completeness of their art.
D. A. W. M.
The Daily Telegraph 15th December
London Debut Exceptional Talent! – Wigmore Hall Recital December 7th
An exceptional talent, the 20-year-old cellist Julian Lloyd Webber, made his first Wigmore Hall sonata recital last night a very distinguished affair.
An equally gifted and now well-established musician, Clifford Benson, was his partner at the piano. It was evident that their close partnership had been achieved in many collaborations, which may explain the risk they took in opening with the Vivaldi Sonata No. 5.
The rich adagio and the atheletic fugue of Beethoven’s Sonata in D major were marvellously integrated and balanced.
An expansive account of the Delius Sonata brought out the opulence of the instrument.