Penguin CD Guide 2001
‘English idyll’ (with ASMF, Neville Marriner):
VAUGHAN WILLIAMS: Romanza. ELGAR: Romance in D min.. Op. 62; Une idylle, Op. 4/1.
Discs: 2 Pieces for cello and chamber orchestra. GRAINGER: Youthful rapture; Brigg Fair (arrangement).
DYSON: Fantasy. IRELAND: The holy boy. WALFORD DAVIES: Solemn melody.
Holst: Invocation, Op. 19/2. Cyril Scott: Pastoral and reel.
The highlights of Julian Lloyd Webber’s programme of English concertante miniatures are the Holst Invocation, with its nocturnal mood sensitively caught, and George Dyson’s Fantasy, where the playing readily captures Christopher Palmer’s description: ‘exquisitely summery and sunny — its chattering moto perpetuo evokes images of bees and butterflies’. Grainger’s passionate Youthful raptlure is given just the right degree of ardent espressivo, as are Delius’s warmly flowing Caprice and Elegy, written (during the composer’s last Fenby period) for Beatrice Harrison.
The two transcriptions, Vaughan Williams’s Romanza (originally part of the Tuba concerto) and the Elgar Romance, conceived with the bassoon in mind, were both arranged for the cello by their respective composers and are effective enough in their string formats, although by no means superseding the originals. However, Lloyd Webber gives the full romantic treatment both to John Ireland’s simple tone-picture, The holy boy, and to Grainger’s arrangement of Brigg Fair, to which not all will respond. For the closing Cyril Scoff Pastoral and reel (with its telling drone effect) he returns to a more direct style, with pleasing results. Sympathetic accompaniments and warm, atmospheric recording.
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.