Evening Songs

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Evening Songs Review

Evening Songs CDDelius. Ireland – ‘Evening Songs ‘

Julian Lloyd Webber, Jiaxin Cheng vsc John Lenehan pf

Nexos 8572902 (63’ • DDD)

If one desires music soothing to the ear, brimming with expressive sentimentality, look no further than Evening Songs. Naxos’s soigné release of selected songs derived from Frederick Delius and John Ireland is worthy of repeat sojourns, the perfect antidote for tranquility.

Frederick Delius’ name most often connects with his larger, orchestral works such as the Florida Suite, Brigg Fair or even the opera, A Village Romeo and Juliet, but in his early life he began writing songs of an organic nature. There is a satisfying collection of his works that are interspersed with those of John Ireland’s art songs. Brought up in a literary family, Ireland was particularly drawn to poetry, thus providing him with a vast choice of subjects. A classic during World War I, Ireland’s Sea Fever is only one of several fitting pieces to land on this CD.

Renowned cellist Julian Lloyd Webber (younger brother to composer Andrew Lloyd Webber) deftly reinterprets what must have been going on in the minds of Delius and Ireland. Set against John Lenehan’s evenly tempered harmonics, Lloyd Webber draws his strings with sincere and transparent passion, making maximum use of each note to evince the proper amount of sincere reflection. Julian Lloyd Webber arranged most all of the album’s 21 pieces, and they performed with wonderful translation excepting Evening Song and In Summer Woods both of which are played by wife, Jiaxin Cheng. In particular, Webber delivers a beautifully arranged “Serenade” from the incidental music to Hassan, but each listener will end up having their own stash of favorites.

Quietude dominates Evening Songs, and this Naxos recording will encourage listeners to explore other musical marvels emanating from both British-born composers.

Christie Grimstad

Independent IE

Evening Songs Review

Evening Songs CDDelius. Ireland – ‘Evening Songs ‘

Julian Lloyd Webber, Jiaxin Cheng vsc John Lenehan pf

Nexos 8572902 (63’ • DDD)

We all enjoy classical music . . . we just don’t know it

People like classical music, it’s just that they’re not really aware of it. Now, who said that?

It was Britain’s pre-eminent cellist, Julian Lloyd Webber, who backed up his argument by pointing to the numerous TV themes and movie scores — never mind advertising jingles — that have made standards out of not always obvious extracts from the classical repertoire.

Think of the signature tune of the BBC series The Onedin Line (the Adagio from Khachaturian’s second Spartacus and Phrygia suite). Or the film Death in Venice (the Adagietto from Mahler’s ‘Fifth Symphony’). Or the famous TV ad (‘Happiness is a cigar called Hamlet’) that underscored its message by laying pictures over Bach’s ‘Air on the G String’.

Julian Lloyd Webber’s latest release could be taken as a statement of that belief, for there is nothing not to like in his selection of music by British composers Frederick Delius and John Ireland (Evening Songs — Naxos: 8.572902).

We’re likely to hear a lot of Delius over the coming months — 2012 is the 150th anniversary of his birth. It’s also the 50th anniversary of Ireland’s death, but he tends to get less exposure, which is a shame. In his day, his music was immensely popular, even putting the likes of Holst, Vaughan Williams and Bax in the shade.

Lloyd Webber’s collection does ample justice to his two featured composers, taking us somewhere beyond the beaten track.

In the case of Delius, the collection draws on the songs that he wrote which tend to be forgotten in the concentration on his much more famous orchestral output (‘On Hearing the First Cuckoo in Spring’, ‘Summer Night on the River’). In transcribing 10 of them into songs without words for cello and piano (his collaborator is John Lenehan), Lloyd Webber shines the spotlight specifically on the rich melodies enhanced by evocative harmonies.

‘Birds in the High Hall Garden’, originally a Delius setting of a Tennyson poem, is a captivating case in point, the sound of the birds circling at twilight a counterpoint to the boy with his girl picking wildflowers in a wood.

The CD’s title is inspired by a John Ireland miniature called ‘Evening Song’ which could easily have been the inspiration for the term “delightful”.

Lloyd Webber has turned this into a beautifully lilting cello duet, which he plays along with his wife, Jiaxin Cheng, and which melds, together with the caresses of Lenehan’s piano, into the perfect lullaby.

Ireland’s most famous song is also here, his setting of John Masefield’s poignant poem ‘Sea Fever’ (“I must go down to the seas again, to the lonely sea and the sky”). Evening Songs is music for reflection and relaxation, an affirmation that classical music is, above all, to be liked.

George Hamilton

The Observer 15th April 2012

Evening Songs Review

Evening Songs CDDelius. Ireland – ‘Evening Songs ‘

Julian Lloyd Webber, Jiaxin Cheng cellos John Lenehan piano

Nexos 8572902 (63’ • DDD)

I play this CD when my wife is out of the house because, alas, she does not share my love of Delius and Ireland, which is a pity as I find their gift for melody irresistible and their songs particularly attractive, even if they speak of a vanished age. Of the 21 examples here, 18 are transcriptions by Julian Lloyd Webber, who plays with an appropriately vocal sensibility. John Lenehan’s always welcome accompaniments adorn highlights such as Delius’s “Slumber Song”, Ireland’s “Sea Fever” and Eric Fenby’s glorious arrangement of Delius’s “Serenade” from Hassan. Two duets – Ireland’s “In Summer Woods” and Delius’s “Birds in the High Hall Garden” – feature Lloyd Webber’s wife, Jiaxin Cheng, so there’s harmony on that particular home front on the subject of Delius and Ireland!

Stephen Pritchard

Hi-Fi Critic March 2012

Evening Songs Review


Evening Songs – Delius and Ireland songs arranged for cello and piano by Julian Lloyd Webber

(Naxos Classical 8.572902)

A nice idea; songs by John Ireland and Frederick Delius arranged for cello and played by JLW. 2012 brings fifty years since Ireland died and one hundred and fifty since Delius was born. The transcriptions work well and are played with feeling, tenderness, good tone and love. Ireland’s Sea Fever and The Holy Boy are here; indelible melodies. There’s a good range included. This release is not just for cellists; it’s good to have a different light shone on these ‘settings’, which still sing. Jiaxin Cheng (Mrs JLW) performs on two tracks and John Lenehan is a sensitive pianist. The sound is nicely tangible while allowing space around the instruments.

Colin Anderson

Gramophone March 2012

Evening Songs Review

Evening Songs CDDelius. Ireland – ‘Evening Songs ‘

Delius Five Songs from the Norwegian – Sunset; Slumber Song. Birds In the High Hall Garden. Three Shelley Songs – Love’s Philosophy. Over the mountains high. Hassan – Serenade. Seven Danish Songs – Through long, long years; In the Seraglio Garden. Little Birdie. With your blue eyes

Ireland Spring Sorrow. Evening Song4. Sea Fever. The Holy Boy. Baby. The Three Ravens. Hope. Ladslove. Summer Schemes. Her Song. In Summer Woods

Julian Lloyd Webber, Jiaxin Cheng vsc John Lenehan pf

Nexos 8572902 (63’ • DDD)

Lloyd Webber and wife in English ‘songs without words’

In this interesting experiment of ‘songs without words’ by Delius and Ireland, Julian Lloyd Webber brings an especially sensitive ‘voice’ to the Barjansky-Stradivarius cello on which Alexandre Barjansky gave the premiere of Delius’s Cello Concerto in Vienna in January 1921, not simply by creating that traditional ‘singing’ tone we expect from the instrument but also in the subtle changes of register and tone he lends to his own arrangements (all bar three), with the legerdemain of John Lenehan’s delicate accompaniments. Hearing the songs of both composers without the texts, and played with such attention to contour and gradation, reminds us just how masterly and diverse both composers were in their art of the solo song, and indeed how far each composer developed his own individual concept of the genre.

In the case of Delius, the early, more Grieg-inspired ‘Sunset’, ‘Slumber Song’ and ‘Birds in the High Hall Garden’ (a first recording), and the pianistically athletic ‘Love’s Philosophy’, contrast markedly with the languorous ‘In the Seraglio Garden’ and yearning ‘Through long, long years’ from the Seven Danish Songs of 1896-97, with their sense of extended, symphonic melody and pointillistic harmonies. Among the choice of Ireland’s songs there are the old favourites ‘Sea Fever’ and ‘The Holy Boy’ (in Ireland’s own arrangement), but they are played here with an insight into that nostalgic melancholy that only Ireland knew how to articulate.

The sweep of ‘Ladslove’ and the introspection of ‘Her Song’ are also deeply affecting in this idiom, as are the two duets with Jiaxin Cheng of Ireland’s two part-songs, ‘Evening Song’ and ‘In Summer Woods’. As the title of the disc suggests, this is an ideal collection to while away the summer evenings.

Jeremy Dibble

International Record Review February 2012

Evening Songs Review

Evening Songs

Evening Songs CD

Delius. In the Seraglio Garden. Little Birdie. Love’s Philosophy. Over the Mountains High. Slumber Song. Sunset. Through Long Long Years. With Your Blue Eyes (all arr. Lloyd Webber). Birds in the high Hall-garden (arr. Lloyd Webber/Lenehan/Robert Threlfall). Hassan — Serenade (arr. Eric Fenby). Ireland. Baby. Evening Song. Her Song. Hope. In Summer Woods. Ladslove. Sea Fever. Spring Sorrow. Summer Schemes. The Three Ravens (all arr. Lloyd Webber). The Holy Boy (arr. Ireland).

Julian Lloyd Webber (cello); John Lenehan (piano), with Jiaxin Cheng (cello).

Naxos 8.572902 (super-budget price, 1 hour three minutes). Website www.naxos.com Producer/ Engineer Erdo Groot. Producer Julian Lloyd Webber. Dates September 6th-8th, 2011.

Delius and Ireland both have anniversaries in 2012, and while not obvious bedfellows — I doubt indeed that, despite their dates (1862- 1934 and 1879-1962 respectively) and their temperaments, they were ever acquainted, though of course it is possible, recording them together is a nice idea. The cellist Julian Lloyd Webber is a devotee of both and has in the past recorded both the Delius Cello Concerto and Cello Sonata and also the Ireland Sonata and much of the Ireland chamber repertoire. Now he has had the bright thought of not just setting them alongside each other but of doing so via their songs. Both could almost be called prolific in this area: Ireland wrote over 90, Delius over 60. Yet the catalogue does not teem with recordings thereof.

Eric Fenby and Julian Lloyd Webber

So Lloyd Webber has borrowed 21 of them for his own instrument, and arranged them accordingly himself, except for three where a cello arrangement was pre-existing. The division is very fair: Ireland has just one more than Delius: they alternate, singly or in pairs, on the disc, a sensible set-up. What emerges – as if we needed reminding — is the great gift of each man for melody: divorced from their texts, which are sometimes embarrassing period pieces, they work almost better in this form (about the only one that doesn’t, oddly, is the inevitable Sea Fever, perhaps because Masefield’s words are so familiar and Ireland’s setting so exact. It feels just a little… baritonal!) If the flavour of the whole, as evidenced by the disc’s overall title ‘Evening Songs’, is slow and nocturnal and languorous, this is surely no matter.

Lloyd Webber is joined by his cellist wife Jiaxin Cheng for a couple of numbers, both by Ireland for women’s voices: they intertwine mellifluously. John Lenehan is the ideal accompanist. The recording is unobtrusively excellent, and there are neat, brief notes by Lyndon Jenkins of the Delius Society and Bruce Phillips of the John Ireland Trust, as well as a paragraph of special pleading by the cellist himself, in which he recalls accidentally encountering a Delius song quite recently and being suddenly struck by the notion of singing it on the cello. (It was Birds in the high Hall-garden from the Tennyson cycle Maud, track 3 on the disc and how right it here sounds.)

Piers Burton-Page

Mail on Sunday 5th February 2012

Evening Songs Julian Lloyd Webber and John Lenehan ****

NAXOS 8.572902

‘Lloyd Webber also celebrates Delius’s 150th, and the 50th anniversary of the death of another of his passions, John Ireland, with Evening Songs, 21 highly recommended arrangements for cello and piano on a Naxos disc. Delius wrote 61 songs, few of them memorable, but Julian makes much of the best of them, with his attentive partner, the pianist John Lenehan. The Ireland items make more of an impact, especially his carol The Holy Boy, and Sea Fever, based on John Masefield’s poem.’

David Mellor

The Strad January 2012

Evening Songs Review


Songs arr. cello & piano

Julian Lloyd Webber, Jiaxin Cheng (cello), John Lenehan (piano)

NAXOS 8.572902

Two notable anniversaries celebrated in a delectable collection of song arrangements to coincide with the 150th anniversary of the birth of Frederick Delius and the 50th of the death of John Ireland, Julian Lloyd Webber has specially created cello arrangements of a number of their songs. From the rather sad beauty of Delius’s

Through the Long Years to the dark mood of Ireland’s The Three Ravens, they all lend themselves ideally to the instrument.

Familiar among the 21 tracks will be Ireland’s Sea Fever and Delius’s Love’s Philosophy, together with two pieces known in other formats – Delius’s Serenade from the opera Hassan and Ireland’s The Holy Boy. Most of the other songs of are seldom heard today, and of the three receiving their first Delius’s reflective Birds in the High Hall is particularly noteworthy.

Lloyd Webber has championed Delius’s Cello Concerto, and John Lenehan has revealed his affection for Ireland in recordings of his complete piano music. Add the two players together and you have ideal collaborators. Using a portamento like a singing voice, Lloyd Webber’s cello playing silky smooth and the intonation immaculate, a pleasure doubled by Jiaxin Cheng’s contribution in two Ireland pieces arranged for cello duo and piano. This is not a disc of high contrasts, but one of great beauty with a recorded sound to match.


Daily Express 27th January 2012

Evening Songs Review



This selection of some of Delius’ most beautiful songs arranged for cello and piano demonstrates the composer’s gift for melody.

His Serenade From Hassan is haunting. The cellists, who are husband and wife, explore the thoughtful elegance of John Ireland’s songs, in particular Her Song.


The Independent January 2012

Evening Songs Review

“…his new Naxos album ‘Evening Songs’ is an endearing collection of ‘songs without words’ by two composers he has long championed: John Ireland and Frederick Delius…Julian has a well-developed nose for enduring melody and ‘Evening Songs’ chronicles an abundance of it.”

Edward Seckerson