Gramophone April 1999

Favourite Cello Concertos

Julian Lloyd Webber (vc) with various artists.

A first-class package in every way. As we know from his live performances, Julian Lloyd Webber has a firm, richly coloured and full-focused tone; moreover it records well. His lyrical warmth projects tellingly over the entire range and his involvement in the music communicates consistently and tellingly. He has chosen his accompanists well too. His account of the great Dvorak concerto is full of passionate feeling, with a tender Adagio, and Neumann and the Czech Philharmonic give him thoroughly persuasive backing, playing with plenty of bite in tuttis, the Slavonic exuberance always to the fore. His performance of the Elgar concerto has the huge advantage of Lord Menuhin as his partner, a true Elgarian if ever there was one. It is a performance of real understanding and rare intensity, which never oversteps the work's emotional boundaries and is imbued with innate nostalgia: the Adagio has a haunting Elysian stillness. The Saint-Saens is played for the splendid bravura war-horse that it is, and we are also given a rare chance to hear the original, uncut version of Tchaikovsky's Rococo Variations. Lloyd Webber soon proves that it is superior to the truncated version used in most other recordings; moreover his spontaneous warmth in Tchaikovsky's long-drawn lyrical lines, which he makes sound very Russian in character, makes a perfect foil for the sparkling virtuosity elsewhere.

Among the encores the lovely Traumerei stands out for its freely improvisational feeling and Lloyd Webber's own catchy, slight but romantic personal tribute to Jacqueline du Pre is played as an ardent, tuneful and timely postscript.