Delius Cello Concerto

The Oxford Times 20th June 2012

Philharmonia Orchestra: Sheldonian Theatre 15th June 2012

Delius Cello Concerto

Jubilee weekend may be over, but the festive spirit is still very much alive and kicking — as the Philharmonia Orchestra made clear in Friday’s concert at the Sheldonian, which brought the current Music at Oxford season to a suitably glorious finish. Walton’s Crown Imperial was the perfect opener; first performed at the Coronation of George VI, and then in a revised format at the Coronation of Elizabeth II, it has all the regal splendour you would expect from such a piece, and on Friday conductor Martyn Brabbins made sure it provided an exciting and stirring start to the evening.

Delius may seem a less obvious choice for a Jubilee concert; although born in England, he spent most of his adult life in France, first in Paris and later in Fontainebleau. But his Cello Concerto was written during a brief stay in England in 1921, and its inclusion here was in homage to the composer’s 150th birthday.

Cello maestro and Delius expert Julian Lloyd Webber conjured up sounds of exquisite sweetness in a performance imbued with tenderness and eloquence, maintaining an emotional intensity throughout this extraordinary, one-movement rhapsody in which melodies pour out like a fast-flowing current before the piece comes to a faltering, uncertain finish. Its pensiveness, beautifully realised here by Lloyd Webber, stems from the composer’s certainty that this would be his final great work as a consequence of his failing health; little could he know then that a young Yorkshire composer, Eric Fenby, would spearhead a late resurgence during the last six years of his life.

Nicola Lisle

Mail on Sunday 5th February 2012

Delius: 150th anniversary concert Royal Festival Hall, London

Delius Gets a Day He Deserves *****

Many concert promoters think Frederick Delius is box-office poison, a myth thankfully exploded by the enthusiastic packed house at the Royal Festival Hall last Sunday to celebrate the 150th anniversary of the composer’s birth. Several hundred devotees then stayed on to watch Ken Russell’s long-admired Delius film at the adjoining Queen Elizabeth Hall, and to participate in a lively discussion with a panel led by the cellist Julian Lloyd Webber, a huge Delius fan, and chaired by myself.

The Philharmonia Orchestra had hedged their bets a bit by including perhaps the two most popular pieces of the English musical renaissance of a century ago: The Lark Ascending and the Enigma Variations. But it was Delius we were there to hear, particularly Lloyd Webber’s eloquently moving performance of the Cello Concerto, which astonishingly he hadn’t been asked to play live for 30 years, a sign of the Bradford-born composer’s relative neglect.

It was moving because, as Julian always points out, this rhapsodic, sprawling, beautiful piece from 1921 was the last music Delius was able to score himself before syphilis robbed him of his sight and most of his movement. This confined the old composer to years of creative silence, broken during a miraculous Indian Summer by the arrival of an amanuensis, the young Eric Fenby, who coaxed several late masterpieces from Delius. This is the period covered by Ken Russell’s film, which 40 years on, still reduced me to tears.

David Mellor

Classical Source January 2012

Philharmonia Orchestra/Andrew Davis – Delius 150th-Anniversary Concert with Julian Lloyd Webber

Delius Cello Concerto

The Cello Concerto (1921) may be something of an acquired taste. It may not be instantly appealing to the unfamiliar ear, containing no ‘obvious’ melodies within its single movement structure (lasting just over 20 minutes). Instead the emphasis is on mood and feeling, a sense of wistfulness and resignation. The continuous stream of consciousness reveals itself subtly and without fanfare – exactly what Julian Lloyd Webber conveyed and with no lack of feeling, Davis the perfect partner, cushioning the long, flowing cello line on a soft bed of supple strings and delicate woodwinds.

Andrew Maisel

The Guardian Newspaper 31st January 2012

Philharmonia/Davis – review

Royal Festival Hall, London

Delius Cello Concerto

The two performances of Delius’ music under Sir Andrew Davis were so fine. Davis has an unequalled sensitivity among modern conductors to the Delius sound world, and also knows how to give these works a momentum they need. Add to that the intensely committed and occasionally rather freewheeling playing of Julian Lloyd Webber, a lifelong Delius advocate, and the result was a truly persuasive case for the composer’s Cello Concerto.

Martin Kettle

The Independent Newspaper 30th January 2012

Philharmonia Orchestra/ Davis, Royal Festival Hall

Delius Cello Concerto

Delius’ rarely heard Cello Concerto brought us rapidly back to earth, the double-stopped gestures of the opening pages (to say nothing of the swinging main theme) fleetingly alluding to the Elgar concerto but imbued with darkening harmonic twists. The music seems to unfold in the playing of it, a “ramble” (as Percy Grainger might have had it) to a place which if not the “Paradise Garden” then at least somewhere touched with enchantment.

Julian Lloyd Webber made it feel personal, a modest voice with a quiet intensity eschewing the temptation towards showy or extravagant gesture but rather projecting a solo presence which had more to do with a sense of the cello as first among equals – more obbligato than main protagonist. And he’s right – this is essentially a chamber piece in manner and attitude.

Edward Seckerson

Musical Opinion April 2010


Rodrigo: Concierto como un divertimento; Delius: Concerto for cello and orchestra+;

Lalo: Cello Concerto in D minor

Julian Lloyd Webber, cello; London Philharmonic Orchestra, Jesus Lopez-Cobos, conductor; +Philharmonia Orchestra, Vernon Handley, conductor

Sony Music 88697570022

1 hour 17 minutes

This welcome reissue contains three of the soloists best concerto performances, especially the Delius (which is inspired). The work that Rodrigo wrote for Lloyd Webber, with its arresting bolero opening and sustained melodic interest, was first heard in 1982; the Sunday Times verdict of sumptuously listenable-to’ remains the most apt epithet The Lalo has always been a valuable contribution to the restricted cello repertoire with its appealing blend of strength and fancy all clothed in highly effective writing for the instrument, one wonders why it is not heard more. Both these concertos need a conductor who is thoroughly at home in the Spanish idiom and can bring his own flair to the proceedings (just as Pedro de Freitas Branco did in the case of the Lalo on the old Decca 78s with the legendary Suggia). López-Cobos is ideally cast here in support of his flamboyant soloist, and the extremely happy results carry to the listener.

The Cello Concerto was Delius’s favourite among his three string concertos, admired not only by Percy Grainger and others in his immediate circle but (perhaps a little surprisingly) by Elgar, who said he yearned to conduct it. Delius’s amanuensis Eric Fenby attributed its relative neglect to its difficulty and its rhapsodic form, though this particular recording has shown ever since its first incarnation on LP that the two essential requirements are a cellist and a conductor who thoroughly understand Delius’s idiom and can get inside his sound-world: in other words, two Delians through and through. Lloyd Webber and Vernon Handley both on top form and in perfect harmony of understanding, fully meet these requirements in this finely- tuned conception: with the newly-remastered recording sounding better than ever, this performance maintains its position as first choice.

Lyndon Jenkins

Mail on Sunday January 10th, 2010

Romantic Cello Concertos CD


If you like musical discoveries, Julian Lloyd Webber does a fine job with three easily overlooked cello concertos by Joaquin Rodrigo, Frederick Delius and Edouard Lalo. His generously filled 77-minute reissue of excellent recordings made in the Eighties is ideal for those who think romantic cello concertos begin and end with Elgar and Dvorak. Julian himself commissioned the Rodrigo from the then 80-year-old blind Spaniard, and although it’s just a bit of froth, it’s really charming, and will appeal to anyone who loves the same composer’s celebrated Aranjuez concerto.

The Delius is a considerable work, written just four years after Elgar’s concerto, and tirelessly espoused by Beatrice Harrison, who did so much to make the Elgar acceptable. Unlike the meticulously planned Elgar, it’s rhapsodic and sprawling in typical Delius style, but treasurable too.

David Mellor

Yorkshire Post 13th November 2009

Romantic Cello Concertos CD


One of the jewels among Delius recordings, Julian Lloyd Webber’s loving, relaxed and extraordinarily beautiful account of the Cello Concerto creates a scene of autumnal reverie. It contrasts with a robust reading of the Lalo, with the London Philharmonic adding suitable weight. Rodrigo’s ‘Concierto como un divertimento’ was composed for him, its demanding passages flying around the instrument’s fingerboard, Lloyd Webber capturing its many changing moods with impressive playing. Good 1980’s sound and a gift at this price.

David Denton

The Scotsman November 2009

Romantic Cello Concertos CD


JOAQUIN Rodrigo is perhaps best known for his popular Concerto de Aranjuez for guitar, but in the 1980s – when he was in his eighties – he wrote a concerto for cellist Julian Lloyd Webber that is every bit as exotic and tuneful. Accordingly, it fits well with the title of Lloyd Webber’s latest disc, Romantic Cello Concertos, and sits easily with the lush and slithering chromaticism of Delius’s concerto and the hot-blooded romanticism of Lalo’s.

These are a repackaging of earlier separate releases by Lloyd Webber, and so feature different orchestras and conductors. With Vernon Handley and the Philharmonia, he digs deep into the passionate soul of the Delius. With Jesus Lopez-Cobos and the London Philharmonic, the Rodrigo is by far the more perfect and invigorating performance.

Music Web-Philharmonia     April 2002

BBC Music Magazine June 2001

Julian Lloyd Webber plays the Delius Cello Concerto

Works by Rodrigo, Villa-Lobos, Lalo, Saint-Saëns, Delius, etc

Julian Lloyd Webber (cello); LPO/Jesus

Lopez-Cobos, National PO/Charles

Gerhardt, Philharmonia Orchestral

Vernon Handley

BMG marks Julian Lloyd Webber’s half-century by revisiting some of his memorable RCA recordings of the early Eighties. It’s surprising that the agreeably tuneful concerto written for him in 1979 by Joaquin Rodrigo has not been mote widely embraced by other cellists. Only now, some 19 years after its Royal Festival Hall premiere, has it found its way on to CD, though Lloyd Webber’s performance is just as magnetic as I remembered from LP days, and BMG’s new CD transfer is excellent.

Disc 1 of this compilation also includes works by Villa-Lobos, Falla, Popper and others, and Lloyd Webber’s nobly measured account of the Lalo Concerto has a degree of purposeful gravitas that commands attentive listening. However, the British works grouped on the second disc reveal Lloyd Webber’s finest interpretative attributes, especially in a reading of the Delius Concerto that’s much the finest since du Pre’s, and arguably more plausible and engrossing for what it leaves to the imagination of the listener. Lloyd Webber’s more introspective style comes closer to capturing the fleeting spirit of the work than does du Pre’s full-on ardour, and the recording is again first class. A hearty birthday feast that’s well worth investigating.

Michael Jameson


SOUND ****

The Independent on Sunday 6th October 1996

Julian Lloyd Webber plays Delius

Le Manoir aux Quat’ Saisons Festival

Golden Moment of the Week came in the unlikely context of Raymond Blanc’s still, sadly, token music festival at the Manoir aux Quat’ Saisons near Oxford. It opened on Tuesday with Julian Lloyd Webber and John Lenehan playing bits and pieces calculated to spoil no one’s appetite. But in the middle of them came a glorious reading of Delius’s single-movement Cello Sonata followed by a jewel-like Nocturne that could almost have passed for Ravel but was in fact an exquisite miniature by William (pere) Lloyd Webber. Delivered from the heart but with an unaffected dignity it was the most purely pleasurable cello-playing I’ve heard in ages.

Michael White

Stereo Review February 1994

Julian Lloyd Webber plays Delius


Performance: Eloquent Recording: Excellent

Lili Boulanger, younger sister of Nadia, was acknowledged as an important composer when she died in 1918 in her twenty-fifth year. She produced a large body of work, and five years before her death she became the first woman to win the Prix de Rome. The seven works recorded here identify Boulanger as a composer who must have found her own voice remarkably early. Most appealing are the first two, miniature tone poems for piano trio composed in the last year of her life and rescored for orchestra before she died. The poignant D’un soir triste, at a little more than eleven minutes the longest by far of the pieces on this side, is an intensely tragic and yet remarkably subtle work, the sort of thing that creates an aural world of its own. I’d like to hear the orchestral setting, and I can’t imagine how both versions could remain for so long so completely unknown to us. The first trio piece is actually an arrangement of an aria from Boulanger’s cantata Faust el Helene, the work that won her the Prix de Rome. The next two pieces, for piano solo, and the last two, for violin and piano, are slighter and a bit less individualistic but remarkable for their sumptuous yet clear coloring.

Delius, of course, is a much better-known composer than Lili Boulanger, but his Cello Sonata is about as unfamiliar as the Boulanger pieces recorded here. It is a lovely discovery in this eloquent, thoroughly idiomatic performance by Julian Lloyd Webber and Eric Fenby, who was Delius’s amanuensis in the composer’s final years. Here, by way of spoken preamble, Fenby reads a passage from his book Delius As I Knew Him describing a performance of the sonata at the beginning of his relationship with the composer some fifty-five years ago. The solo pieces that fill out the side are less imposing but interesting enough in their own terms. The polka, Delius’s first published work (Jacksonville, Florida, 1885), is an agreeable piece in a music-hall style.

Both composers are extremely well served on this beautifully recorded disc, and so is the listener in being given these opportunities to acquaint himself with works of character and substance in performances that will probably stand as definitive for some time.


The New York Times 1st January 1984

Julian Lloyd Webber plays Delius

Young Cellist Excels in Varied Repertory

Another young cellist who is making a considerable reputation for himself, particularly in Europe, is Julian Lloyd Webber, a British player who seems to have a special interest in conservative 20th-century music. The first of his two most recent disks features a work he commissioned in 1979, the “Concerto como un Divertimento” by the Spanish composer Joaquin Rodrigo. This is a slight departure for Rodrigo: While the outer movements retain the kind of Iberian folk flavor that has been an identifying hallmark of Rodrigo’s music of the last 45 years, the central movement features a simple cello melody set over a misty, delicate and almost atonal backdrop. At the center of this unusual movement, he provides an attractive cadenza that moves be¬tween plucked guitar-like figuration and bowed chords, and which seems, at its climax, to refer to the cadenza of the “Concierto dc Aranjuez,” Rodrigo’s best known work.

The Lalo Concerto, although a 19th-century work, is a logical companion piece: Like the Rodrigo, it makes references to typically Spanish melodic materials, while demanding the kind of Romantic expressivity that the cello yields so willingly. Mr. Webber brings a fulsome tone and an understated flair to both works (British RCA RL 25420, digital; imported by International Book and Record).

He seems even more at home, however, on his second disk, which features neglected works for cello and orchestra by Delius, Hoist and Vaughan Williams (British RCA RS 9010, digital). The Delius is, for the most part, a bright, leisurely score that abounds in sweeping pastoral writing and lovely, extended cello lines that allow Mr. Webber to display his considerable facility without seeming unduly theatrical. Hoist’s early “Invocation” gives the cellist even sweeter material, and the “Fantasia on Sussex Folk Songs,” composed for Casals, is a lush piece with a surprisingly extroverted cadenza that seems a bit incongruous amid the implicity of the folk tunes.

Allan Kozinn

Gramophone June 1983

DELIUS Cello Concerto. Holst Invocation Op.19 No.2. Vaughan Williams Fantasia on Sussex Folk Tunes.

Julian Lloyd Webber (vlc): Philharmonia Orchestra / Vernon Handley. RCA

Cello Concerto comparative versions: du Pre. RPO.Sargent

From his first entry Webber makes the quality of the forthcoming performance of the concerto clear, with those awkward notes (for those first half-dozen bars Delius was obviously trying to write a ‘proper’ cello concerto) assembled into a coherent line. Partly thanks to the excellent editing of the solo part by Herbert Withers all else, too, runs smoothly, the marvellously romantic music given a natural, unexaggerated flow. Handley ensures that the orchestra matches this, and a very clear quality of recording gives soloist and orchestra alike a splendid sound. Balance, too, seems just right; and a feeling of some intimacy is conveyed; perhaps this is helped alone by using a suitably modest number of string-players. In any event this is a version of the Delius to treasure.

So too, in its day, was of course the Jacqueline du Pre/HMV version listed above. And still there are remarkable qualities on offer: a warmly romantic reading which is in little danger of seeming exaggeratedly so unless heard immediately after the Webber; and an equally warm, romantic sound on a somewhat bigger, but not at all necessarily more suitable scale for the orchestra. But the quality of recorded sound of this older disc, once very acceptable, now seems greatly inferior to that of the new one; the strings in particular, solo and orchestral, lacking warmth and clarity.

For coupling, that older du Pre record has the Elgar Cello Concerto. The new record’s couplings, though, are of unusual interest, offering first recordings of unfamiliar cello pieces by Hoist and Vaughan Williams. Holst’s Invocation seems to me to be a real find, not so much a romantic flow for the cello here as a coolly classical, rather ruminative exploration of the instrument’s sedater qualities as a soloist. The piece’s unusual, and very worthwhile virtues are somewhat set in sharp relief, though, by the Vaughan Williams-Fantasia on Sussex Folk Tunes, which was written in the first place for Casals (who played it, perhaps wondering at the time where on earth Sussex was!) Today its general folk-tune flavour seems, of course, characteristic enough of Vaughan Williams; but its exposition in terms of instrumental solo with orchestra does not. Nevertheless the Fantasia can hardly be rated a hardship, and here it has, as does the Holst Invocation, the great advantage of impeccable performance and the same splendid quality of recording given to the Delius. This is a very welcome issue indeed. M.M.

The Sunday Times 19th June 1983

Our critics choose the classical records of the month

DELIUS Cello Concerto, HOLST Invocation, VAUGHAN WILLIAMS Fantasia on Sussex Folk Tunes

Julian Lloyd Webber/Philharmonia/Handley RCA RS 9010 £5.60

THE Cello Concerto was the last of Delius’s concertos and his own favourite. First performed sixty years ago, it is a rarity in this concert-room, which makes this, only it’s second recording, doubly desirabe. Julian Lloyd Webber threads the golden solo line ‘con amore’ through one of Delius’s loveliest works, tinged with the gentle melancholy of the autumnal harmonies that were his alone. First recordings of both the Holst and Vaughan Williams pieces, and superbly vivid sound, make an important accession to the recorded literature of the cello.

Felix Aprahamian

Classical Music 11th June 1983

Delius Cello Concerto…

DELIUS. Cello Concerto. HOLST. Invocation.

VAUGHAN WILLIAMS. Fantasia on Sussex Folk Tunes. Julian Lloyd Webber, Philharmonia Orch/Vernon Handley. RCA RS 9010.

JACQUELINE DU PRE’s recording of the Delius is now nearly 20 years, old and there was certainly room for an alternative that would shed a more contemporary light on the piece, temper its lyricism with greater maturity, and be less indulgently and more imaginatively conducted. This is it. No other cellist has championed it so ardently, and this recording has the authority that is born of long experience. Of the companion pieces (both first recordings) the RVW has its moments though is on the whole rather thin, but the lyrical, Planets-influenced Holst is a real find. RCA’s digital sound is beautifully clear and natural.


The Guardian 26th April 1983

DELIUS. Cello Concerto. HOLST. Invocation.

From the cellist Lloyd Webber comes a most attractive coupling of rarities for cello and orchestra, Delius’s wayward, seamlessly lyrical concerto as well as works by Holst and Vaughan Williams that for a generation and more had been totally forgotten (RCA US 9010): Holst’s Invocation for cello and orchestra has its echoes of Wagner, Strauss and Elgar, but equally it looks forward to the Planets. Its beauty is sensuous with no hint of Holst the ascetic. Vaughan Williams’s Fantasia on Sussex Folk Times by contrast, written in 1930 for Casals, is not quite the conventional pot-pourri you expect with its occasional spiky hints of Job and the Fourth Symphony and its downbeat ending.

Lloyd Webber, superbly supported by Vernon Handley and the Philharmonia Orchestra, plays with just the warmth needed, not just here but in the Delius. Nearly 20 years ago this was the first concerto ever recorded by Jacqueline du Pre playing with teenage intensity but with the sound of her cello made thin. Now Lloyd Webber and Handley present a more richly idiomatic view with the surprise of the Alle-gramente last section brought out the more.

Edward Greenfield

Musical Times November 1983

Delius Cello Sonata and Cello Concerto with Julian Lloyd Webber

Record Reviews

Delius Cello Sonata; Three Piano Preludes; Polka?Zum Carnival.

Lili Boulanger Piano and Chamber Music. Lloyd Webber, Fenby, Parkin/Parkin, Barry Griffiths, Keith Harvey

Unicorn-Kanchana DKP 9021

The fact that in 1919 the Delius cello sonata shared a recital in Paris with some Lili Boulanger songs is excuse enough for bringing these rarities together. It’s all music of subtle distinction. Fenby introduces the Delius side by reading the account from Delius as I knew him of how he accompanied the cello concerto and sonata after his first night at Grez. One can only echo Delius’s ‘Bravo, Fenby, my boy’, and add similar commendation for Julian Lloyd Webber, who has unusual and masterly control of Delius’s ebb and flow. Eric Parkin is sensitive in the atmospheric preludes but needs a dash more irony for the honky-tonk Polka. The Boulanger pieces range from the Harmonies du soir, a transcription for piano trio of an aria from her Prix de Rome cantata of 1913 (Faust et Helens), to the sombre and acrid threnody, D’un soir triste, from the last year of her short life. The music is economical and taut, sensuously alert but controlled with fastidious judgment. The ‘nature’ titles of most of the seven works belie the cogent seriousness other manner. Nothing is facile, nothing is dull, and her interpreters make an eloquent case for music we should hear more of.


Delius Cello Concerto. Holst Invocation. Vaughan Williams Fantasia on Sussex Folk Tunes.

Lloyd Webber/Philharmonia Orchestra/Handley

RCA RS 9010

This coupling of major Delius, minor Hoist, and minimal Vaughan Williams has been imaginatively conceived and admirably carried out. Delius needs every sympathy from his performers, and from Julian Lloyd Webber he gets it. The passagework in this lovely concerto can so easily sound angular and perfunctory; here the melodic lines are beautifully shaped, and the lyrical outpouring is as eloquent as it is subtly controlled. Technical difficulties are nothing to this greatly gifted young cellist. Hoist’s Invocation of 1911 is a rarity, spare and passionate in its crystalline clarity, intriguing in its ability to look both forwards and backwards through Hoist’s output. The Vaughan Williams Fantasia had the advantage of a Casals premiere in 1930, which availed it little. The manner is bluff, and the loose-strung argument turns up little to remember. Orchestra and conductor are sensitive supporters throughout, plangent, evocative, or pedestrian where they have to be.


The Guardian 18th October 1982

Delius Cello Concerto – Fairfield Hall


FEW cellists have been as enterprising as Julian Lloyd Webber in extending the concerto repertoire beyond the handful of familiar works. Often such labours have to be their own reward. But the Delius Concerto is really worth resurrecting. The first thing, however, is to forget the title. The work should be classified with those reveries, elegies and meditations which French composers love to write for solo strings. There is no dramatic or perceptible constructive development or interaction between soloist and orchestra. Instead, a sustained outpouring of lyrical melody in which closely related themes seek to merge their identities rather than to declare their independence.

The work, which calls for the smoothest and sweetest playing, suits Lloyd Webber well. The cellist-poet wanders through a forest of lush sounds and becomes part of the landscape. There are many passages where orchestra leads, with cello supplying melodic arabesques, the equivalent of passages in conventional concertos where the orchestra plays the tunes while the soloist, shows off in elaborate figurations. Take a slice of the Delius Concerto anywhere and you will get a fair sample of the whole. Rearrange your slices in random order and I doubt if most of us would be any the wiser. But Delius’s ability to sustain the mood for 20 minutes ensures that we are drawn in by the spell of the music.

Hugo Cole