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.