Debussy Cello Sonata

Turkish Daily News 27th June 2007

Classic brilliance resonates in ancient walls

Music gently whines through the corridors of the ancient Byzantine structure Hagia Eirini, at the concert, Festival Meetings II, performed by an acclaimed cellist, cello quartet and pianist

As four cellists raise their bows in the air and strike the cellos strings with utmost grace, Bach’s Air in D Major gently resonates in a former Eastern Orthodox Church, Hagia Eirini Museum (Aya lrini) at the Topkapi Palace on Monday night. As the music gently whines through the corridors of the ancient Byzantine structure and rises to the atrium, a surreal musical journey begins in an enchanting setting of history and culture that creates the perfect atmosphere for music lovers of all ages. Festival Meetings II, featuring an acclaimed cellist, Julian Lloyd Webber, cello quartet çellistanbul and pianist Pam Chowhan is part of the 35th International Istanbul Music Festival. The festival is the latest creation of a creative musician and an ensemble of musicians whose passion for classical sound resonates from their soul. Istanbul’s own cello quartet ‘çeliistanbul’, started the audience on a journey of choral harmonies. Inspired by the city Istanbul and its magical atmosphere, the group is formed of cellists who graduated from the same Conservatoire of music their repertoire includes classical as well as modern works. “I am on a Long, Narrow Road” was a special composition for the quartet based on Asik Veysel’s melody that proved to the audience they were witnessing brilliant performers.

Each cord was played in unison echoing the emotion of the music on the individual faces and swaying bodies 0r the cellists. The group was one entity playing off each other’s enthusiasm and passion. Their long composition was met with equal pleasure from the audience as each note created tension in the already thick church air. The last note in the composition is held in harmony. The audience holds its breath. Time stops. The note finishes. The stunned audience breaks the silence with loud cheers and applause.

The group also known for their works of tango and jazz finish off their set with Tango Passionata and Polonaise. The second set welcomes Julian Lloyd Webber to the stage with Pam Chowham accompanying him on the piano. He too begins with Bach’s C Major Adagio followed by Scherzetto. At first the music did not flow together.

There seemed to be tension as each performer kept looking for signs and warmth the two instruments should create. It was not until Scherzo Pizzicato that the union warmed up and put their bows aside; Webber played the cello with his fingers. Claude Debussy’s Sonata (1915) was long and stunning. Inspired with patriotic sentiments his music flowed with watery magic to dark virtuosity. It was multi-faceted brilliance that was written for the flute, piano and cello and it worked with Chowhan accompanying Webber on the piano. The night was not over yet, as ‘çellistanbul’ joined Webber on stage to perform the last three compositions. Beginning with Astor Piazzolla’s Oblivion, the groups performance highlights not only Webber’s amazing ability to take original scores and create a compelling rhythm, hut to depict character through music that shows his way of bringing life to his playing, It would not be a Webber production without performing one of his brothers most popular songs from the popular musical Jesus Christ Superstar, “I Don’t Know How to Love Him.” The audience was really alive and hoped there was more when the performance ended. The silence was extensive and finally broken with loud applause. The applause brought Webber and the ‘çellistanbul’ quartet back on stage to perform an encore of Astor Piazolla’s Oblivion. This time when the last cord was held, the audience knew once the sound reached the atrium, the performance was truly over. A standing ovation ended a magical myriad of classical ethereal sound that was performed brilliantly.

South China Morning Post 14th September 1998

Julian Lloyd Webber is a multi-talented international celebrity, held in the high regard by all those who love classical music.

During the past week, I have heard him talk to music students of the Hong Kong Academy for Performing Arts about the state of classical music today, teach some of the Academy’s most promising young cellists in public master class and present a brilliant public recital.

As a speaker, he is articulate and persuasive in his quest to bring classical music to a wider audience of young people. His teaching style is supportive, providing ideas for consideration.

As a performer, his technique and musicality are beyond reproach. If Philips, for whom he records, had wished a recording of his recital could have been issued without changing a single note.

The carefully structured programme, played completely from memory, opened with JS Bach’s Adagio in G (BMV156). It was hard to believe that this work was not originally written for cello. The beautiful sound of his 2Barjansky” Stradivarius hovered above the audience long after his bow had stopped.

Lloyd Webber’s control is truly amazing. In the Debussy Sonata (1915), Faure Elegie and Delius Sonata for Cello and Piano in One Movement (1915), which followed, every nuance, from the merest whisper of sound, had an expressive function within the phrase.

Subtle changes of vibrato highlighted specific notes in the wonderful harmonies of the Rachmaninoff Sonata in G minor for Piano and Cello, Op19.

Lloyd Webber’s concept of his work included all the grand gestures normally associated with Rachmaninoff, but the characteristic pathos and suffering were expressed without resorting to sentimentality. This was an intimate, refined interpretation filled with dignity.

The programme also included a brief Nocturne for Cello and Piano by William Lloyd Webber, Julian’s father.

Following the concert, Lloyd Webber, with his superb accompanist John Lenehan, took the time to autograph recordings and chat with a ling line of fans. It was a pleasant sight.

Merrili Debski

The Independent 19th December 1994

Julian Lloyd Webber, Wigmore Hall, London

There were no frills on offer for Julian Lloyd Webber on Thursday at the Wigmore Hall. No record signings or glossy promo packs. Just an evening of simple, honest music-making, like he always said it should be.

Said it on this page, in fact, over a week ago, in an interview that raised expectations about his style of playing that could only be justified in the act. His programme, with French and Russian classics, new works and old novelties, suggested no lack of ideas. Even so, it was the artist in action who proved his point that playing the cello remains his principal devotion.

He began with Britten’s Sonata in C; a smart choice, for in its spiderery plucked strings and side-glancing melodies he could project the spirit of his musicianship with little chance of going over the top. Elusiveness seems written into the very notes of this piece, and Lloyd Webber came nearest to direct statement in the Elegia, keening cello against acrid, bitonal chords from the pianist John Lenehan. Yet neither here nor in Debussy’s late Sonata were the players working at full pressure, despite a noble view of the Prologue and an encounter with the Serenade that caught the deft instability of its nervous pantomime.

Instead, these works gave a preview of the full picture to come: a tonal range that stretched from the lustrous alto timbre of an antique viola to a crisp, succulent bass, and a rhythmic acumen willingly shared between the two players.

The reward came after the interval, in a faultless reading of Rachmaninov’s testing Cello Sonata. After the bold adventure of its opening bars, the second theme, proposed by Lenehan and propelled by Lloyd Webber through a flight of echoes and asides, stood for the fine coordination of the whole. Gruff tremolos in the scherzo and a fine tune in the slow movement yielded to a finale that relaxed just enough to give the lyrical moments room to breath: it drew lively applause.

For a striking contrast, there was also the premiere of Dream Sequence, Richard Rodney Bennett’s medley of Broadway themes about childhood. And who else but the incomparable Bennett could turn a simple exercise into such art?

His chords had an easy showtime magic; at a push you could work them out at the piano; but never quite the chords he chose, and in such exquisite order. Lloyd Webber’s rapt pianissimo was an asset both here and in the plainsong world of another premiere, James MacMillan’s Kiss on Wood; bright piano chords like flashes of lightning; then silence; then a winding chant for cello, stretched out on the rack of more silence to end on a prie-dieu of comforting harmonies. MacMillan’s vision of the cross was serene yet questioning and, like the Bennett, a significant plus for the cello repertoire.

A bouquet of salon music rounded off the evening: Cyril Scott’s Pastoral and Reel and Lullaby and Frank Bridge’s scherzo. These are composers who are polished and passionate. yet often undervalued. A bit like Lloyd Webber? No longer, on the evidence of this wholesome plum-pudding of a concert.

Nicholas Williams

Debussy Sonata for Cello

Palau de la Musica 13th April

La Vanguardia and ABC quotes

“The Intervention of an exceptional cellist – a rare thing in Barcelona – Julian Lloyd Webber, was much better. He possesses a Stradivarius with the most beautifui sound that can be imagined. He marvellously presented a Programme of various works, best of which was a masterly version of the Sonata for cello and piano by Debussy.”

LA VANGUARDIA (16th April 1994)

“Mucho mejor estuvo, a nuestro juicio, la intervención de este violonchelista de excepción, rarísimo en Barcelona, que es Lloyd Webber, y que posee un instrumento Stradivarius de sonido más bello que quepa imaginar; dio de maravilla un cierto popurrí de circunstancias, pero entre él destacó una magistral versión, con Julius Drake al piano, de la Sonata para violonchelo y piano de Claude Debussy.”

LA VANGUARDIA (16 Abril 1994)

“Julian Lloyd Webber extracted the sarcastic humour and the poetic melancholy from the Debussy Sonata for cello and piano, with its evocative Habanera rhythms conveyed by the ‘pizzicatos’ in the second movement, and the Spanish atmosphere evoked by the vigorous Finale. From Bridge to Britten, Faure, Dvoräk and Scott, everything he played reflected a musician of real personality and interest.”

ABC (16th April 1994)

“Las cosas fueron mejor para Julián Lloyd Webber, que extrajo el humor sarcástico y la poesía melancólica de la Sonata para violonchelo y piano de Debussy, los ritmos de habanera evocados en los ‘pizzicatos’ del segundo movimento, y el perfume hispano del vigoroso ‘Finale’. Desde Bridge hasta Britten, Fauré, Dvorak o Scott, todas sus intervenciones fueron dignas de un músico personal e interesante.”

ABC (16 Abril 1994)

Gramophone November 1979

Debussy and Rachmaninov Cello Sonatas

On the other hand, WEA Enigma’s new record of the Rachmaninov and Debussy cello sonatas, expertly played by Julian Lloyd Webber and Yitkin Seow (K53586, 9/79), is fully competitive and holds its own in quite illustrious company. The two sonatas are not otherwise coupled together, and the Rachmaninov miniatures, Op. 2, if slight, are charming and have the benefit of novelty. The sound is more than just acceptable, and even though I agree with MH’s marginal reservation that “the tones of these extremely accomplished young players are not displayed to full advantage”, it is still both truthful and attractive enough to make it a useful alternative to Tortelier’s record in the Rachmaninov sonata (HMV ASD2587, 12/70) and a worthwhile contender in the Debussy. If these two artists have long recording careers ahead of them, Arthur Grumiaux can scarcely look back on a more satisfying issue in his extensive discography than the two Fauré violin sonatas that he has just recorded (Philips 9500 534, 7/79).