Rachmaninov Cello Sonata

Bachtrack.com 19th March 2012

Rachmaninov Cello Sonata

Julian Lloyd Webber Pays Tribute to Cello Greats in Cornwall

Julian Lloyd Webber with Pam Chowhan

Hall for Cornwall, Truro

It is inevitable that one of the most beloved of orchestral instruments, the cello, will entice a diverse crowd of enthusiastic concertgoers – and that even in the midst of a recession, there prevails an inherent desire to depart from the self now and then for a ritualistic celebration of great music. It is no surprise, then, that Truro’s Hall for Cornwall warmly welcomed an evening with cellist Julian Lloyd Webber and pianist Pam Chowhan, performing works by Bach, Bridge, Britten, Fauré, Delius, Rachmaninov, Saint-Saëns, Piazzolla, and William Lloyd Webber.

Though such an eclectic programme might appear to be jarring at first, the selection of repertoire was an apt decision on Lloyd Webber’s part, demonstrating his virtuosity both technically and lyrically. A lush Adagio from Bach’s Cantata no. 156 awakened the evening with its gentle, picturesque scenery, exuding an alluring warmth and elegance. At its heel followed Frank Bridge’s lively Scherzetto, a juxtaposition which paid off by virtue of the Bach-like capriciousness of Bridge’s piece. These works seemed best suited to Lloyd Webber’s musicianship, who exhibited a pristine clarity, conscientiously noting the subtle eccentricities of the pieces without exaggeration. Equally prodigious, Chowhan flowed seamlessly across the scope of her instrument, providing a solid accompaniment and filling in the acoustics nicely.

The programme next ventured into the distinctly more contemporary Scherzo from Britten’s Cello Sonata in C, which was reminiscent of Shostakovich and Bartók with its macabre intensity. This was answered by the much-anticipated Elégie by Fauré, whose melancholy seemed slightly understated by Lloyd Webber; as the piano accompaniment trod heavier, the deeper tones of the cello became lost in the chasm of sound and that great, cavernous resonance that all cello lovers devour was restricted by the acoustics of the venue. Where the architecture of the piece demanded a passionate rawness from the soloist, the slight restraint and the dominant piano inhibited the poetic performance, and one sensed a somewhat repressed musicality.

It was not until Rachmaninov’s Cello Sonata in G minor that Lloyd Webber unleashed a brooding temperament, with his cello straining above the piano part’s vigorous flashes across the keyboard. Chowhan was blazing in her performance, and for the first time during the course of the concert, Lloyd Webber’s gestures were dramatically wrought as the two musicians unravelled a torrent of Romanticist sentiment that echoed the Russian’s piano concertos.

In this sense, the execution of the sonata was a revelatory climax of the concert, as its brilliance overshadowed the previous works. Even throughout the performance of Delius’ Cello Sonata earlier in the programme (celebrating his 150th anniversary), the distinction between movements and their ideas were not as dynamically rendered as they were here; Lloyd Webber embraced the full scale of metaphysical outpouring in the Rachmaninov, to great effect.

Yet while some critics may argue that the poignancy of the repertoire would have been intensified by a more exposed and exuberant playing style, it was the simplicity and humility with which Lloyd Webber expressed himself which made the concert experience more tangible to the listener. Humanizing the works of the composers by prefacing each piece with a personal anecdote, the cellist avoided the elitism of high art and this made each musical phrase more resonant. His discussion of father William Lloyd Webber’s haunting Nocturne was a touching tribute, and his performance of it was peaceful and meditative. As a homage to the more popular cello canon, Saint-Saëns’ The Swan and Piazzolla’s seductive Oblivion met with a communal rapport from the audience, completing an interesting cycle of music which spanned a few hundred years.

If Lloyd Webber strove to achieve in his audience a greater reverence for the legacy of music, then his standing ovation proved such an aspiration successful. The richness of the programme’s variety and the craftsmanship which the performers intuitively showcased (often functioning in a more egalitarian nature than that of soloist with accompaniment) ensured a respectful homage to some marvellous yet often neglected works.

Lucy Armstrong

The Independent 19th December 1994

Rachmaninov Cello Sonata


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

The Washington Post 18th January 1994

Rachmaninov Cello Sonata

Julian Lloyd Webber

With more than 30 recordings to his credit, cellist Julian Lloyd Webber need never fear about living in his brother Andrew’s shadow. And while concert artists rarely win mass acclaim – and of the few that do, still fewer are cellists – Julian Lloyd Webber’s star shines brightly in that small constellation of the deserving few.

Saturday night’s performance at the Jewish Community Center in Rockville showed why this should be so. Lloyd Webber brought a fine touch and a keen intellect to all that he and pianist John Lenehan played. Architecture was always in place, and each piece on this most challenging program conveyed a sense of journey, of departure and arrival.

The sweetest moments came in the most delicate exchanges – in Bach’s “Ich stehe mit einem Fuss im Grabe”, the Prologue to the Debussy Sonata, and, not surprisingly, in the gentle unfolding of Faure’s “Elegie”. All were crafted with the greatest of care – down to the triple-piano markings – and dispatched with exact intonation.

Lloyd Webber and Lenehan evinced the skills and vision to make the music memorable even when in the case of the Rachmaninov Sonata and the Frank Bridge encore, neglect might have consigned them to a different fate.

-Mark Carrington


Kraft aus der Synthese von Intellekt und Musikantentum

Salzburg: Der Cellist Julian Lloyd Webber Im Mozarteum

Gabriel Faures Elegie in c-Moll, op 24, – Ist das wirklich eine von jenen samtenen Musikschöpfungen, die zu nichts anderem gut sind, als daß sich ein Cellist mit Ihrer Hilfe zielstrebig Ins Herz seiner Zuhörer hinelnschmelchelt? Julian Lloyd Webber Ist ein erzmusikantischer Cellist, und ?jarum hat er diesem Stück nichts von seinem sentimentalen melodischen Reiz Benommen. Aber er Ist auch und vor allem ein hochintelligenter Cellist; einrr, der sich keineswegs mit einem sonoren Singsang die Bindebögen entlang zufrieden gibt. Er hält Faures Elegie eher im Mezzoforte und zeltweise in ganz Innigen Piano-Tö- nen, läßt den Schmelz also nur in kleiner Dosis zu. Und gerade deshalb bildet er mit seinem Cello kein akustisches Bollwerk zum Klavier hin, sondern lenkt das Interesse der Zuhörer hin zum Kollegen an den Tasten. Der Pianist bekommt so die Möglichkeit, ein wichtiges Stück Faure-VeretändnIs mitzuteilen: Faures harmonische Welten »ind »ehr genau geplante, vorimpressionistische Klangmalereien. Folgerichtig hat John Lenehan am Flügel der feinen Stimmung In den Akkorden nachhören können.

Es war eine durch und durch anregen- de Begegnung mit Violoncello-Literatur «us einem eher engen Zeitraum, zwischen 1880 und 1961.Sergej Rachmanlnow befrleolgte mit der g Moll Sonate, op. 19, durchaus Erwartungen’an Virtuosität und Schwärmerei. Benjamln Britten wollte mit seiner ?Sonata in C” (op. 65) wohl zeigen, daß das Schwelgen In den Melodien auch nach zwei Dezennien der Vorherrschaft serieller Kompositionswelsen seine Berechtigung hat, wenn es nur formal, strukturell gut abgesichert Ist.

Brittens Werk ist In dieser Hinsicht fürwahr gut »bgesichert. Und Uoyd Webber hat mit der ihm eigenen Kraft zur Synthese von Intellekt und Musikantentum ein bravourös aufgeschlüsseltes Bild von dieser Musik nachgezeichnet. Diese Etnton-Motive am Beginn, die so subtil In ihren Bewegungs- und Lautstärke-Werten verknüpft warenl Wieder hatte John Lenehan großen Anteil am stimmigen Ganzen, denn Brittens «So- nata” Ist nicht nur tm explizit so benannten ,Dialoge” ein eminent zwie-ge- sprachiges Werk. Der Londoner Pianist hat die Gabe, auch dichte Akkordpassagen mit beneidenswerter Klarheit und Schlankheit umzusetzen. Und er trifft mit schlafwandlerischer Sicherheit jeweils genau die dynimlsche Balance.

Der Abend war b-imerkenswert auch und gerade wegen der Übereinstim- mung zwischen dem Cellisten und sei- nem Begleiter.

Reinhard KriechtMum

The Irish Times 10th May 1988

Rachmaninov Cello Sonata

Julian Lloyd Webber in the NCH

JULIAN Lloyd Webber, nobly playing with two damaged thumbs, gave this enormous recital at the National Concert Hall on Saturday in aid of the Adelaide Diabetic Research Fund. For several reasons it was one of the most important cello recitals to have been played in Dublin in recent years. Although he appears quite frequently here, Lloyd Webber was giving us the first real chance to hear him in these big works with his mag-nificent ‘Barjansky’ Stradivarius of 1684.

Heretofore in my experience he has had a relatively small sound, but he now has an instrument of wonderful warmth, vigour and personality which is capable of voicing the heavy demands he puts on it in complex works like the Debussy sonata. It was a joy to me to witness this beautiful partnership between artist and instrument which, supported by the committed accompaniment of Peter Pettinger, found its way, albeit with difficult music, into the hearts of an unfamiliar audience.

Having said that, I do not think, on the evidence of his over-romanticised Bach, that I would like to hear him in an all-Bach programme. He is firmly, and admirably, at home in the modern repertoire, where he is both searching out the many strands of the com¬poser’s identity and pursuing the essential melodic lines.

He demonstrated this in one of his encores, the Bridge ‘Scherzetto’ of 1901 which he himself discovered and premiered in the seventies. In the Faure to which he laid claim as a considerable work (and where his romanticisation was completely convincing) he played not simply ‘like’ a master put as a master. But the triumph of the evening was in the true partnership be¬tween piano and cello of the Rachmaninov. Here both players showed a sincerity, an immediacy, an elegance and, in Lloyd Webber’s case, a boyish charm, which raised my enjoyment of this gem of the repertoire to new heights.

By Richard Pine

Guardian 4th February 1980


If ever a cello sonata asked to be turned into a concerto, it is the magnificent C minor work which Rachmaninov wrote at the very peak of his powers in 1901 at the same time as the Second Piano Concerto. It is not that it would necessarily sound better with the cello accompanied by an orchestra instead of a piano, but that in essence it is a piece on an epic scale demanding virtuoso playing of uncompromising power.

That is just what Julian Lloyd Webber provided in a fine performance at the Queen Elizabeth Hall. He has already recorded the work with this same pianist, Yitkin Seow, and the pity was that in this instance the support, refined and confident as it was, seemed too self-effacing. So often in cello sonatas the piano tends to swamp the cello, however positive the player but here was the opposite phenomenon.

It is a work which against the usual rules gets even finer as it progresses, with one of the most heart-easing of Rachmaninov’s melodies in the slow movement leading to a finale exuberant in its optimism—rare thing with this composer. For encore the slow movement was played again, and seemed all the more moving a second time.

Lloyd Webber’s strength as a cellist, his natural compulsion lies very much in his ability to phrase with soaring spontaneity and imagination. The Rachmaninov performance made a fitting climax to the programme – which he and Mr. Seow are now taking to Carnegie Hall in New York – but in Debussy and Britten, too. Lloyd Webber took on the role of surrogate composer, not in any excessive freedom but in the feeling of improvisation, very apt when both composers work from fragmentary material.

The Britten brought a performance more introspective, less obviously weighty than that of the dedicate Rostropovich, and the echoes of Soviet music were less sharply defined but the playing was equally full of fantasy.

Edward Greenfield

Gramophone November 1979

Rachmaninov and Debussy 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). Gramophone – November 1979

Classical Music Magazine October 1978

Rachmaninov Cello Sonata


Although tthe format was unchanged, the second Benson and Hedges Festival held in the Maltings at Snape between October 1 and 8 failed to achieve the homogeneity which characterised the first. Perhaps this was intentional, Jacob de Vries and his committee feeling that conflict of style can be as stimulating as artistic unity. Where Schubert and Britten complemented each other in 1977, Mozart and Rachmaninov were diametrically opposed in 1978. This was particularly evident in the contrived artificailty of the ‘Rachmozartiade’, since artists of sensitivity and discrimination would rarely consider alternating works by these two composers during a whole musical soiree.

Inevitably the most satisfying concerts were devoted to a single composer, and I cannot remember hearing the Amedeus Quartet in better form than on October 3, when they played Mozart’s Clarinet Quitet with a young American, Richard Stoltzman, whose tone-quality became absorbed into their string sound, creating a unique blend of colours which I had seen in the score but assumed impossible to acheive in performance. Listening to Stoltzman, I recalled a contemporary description of Anton Stadler’s tone as ‘so soft and sweet that nobody with a heart can resist it’, for this was a performance which communicated the quintessence of mature Mozart.

The following evening Stoltzman was joined by Atar Arad and Tamas Vasary in a delicious account of Mozart’s Trio, K498, which more than compensated for an unforgettably percussive attack on his Two-Piano Sonata k488 by Vasary and Annie Fischer, whom I christened Vasary and Bashary.

A change of both composer and performers after the interval gave the impression of a different concert, but a memorable one nevertheless, consisting of a superb interpretation of Rachmaninov’s Cello Sonata by Julian Lloyd Webber and Roger Vignoles, in which the meditative undercurrent of the music shone through the glitter of technically stunning performances from both players.

During the 1977 Fetsival, Vignoles established himself as a great accompanist in the tradition of Gerald Moore, Dalton Baldwin and Geoffrey Parsons, and his playing during this Festival inspired a number of outstanding performances, notably from Julian Lloyd Webber.

Classical Music October 1978

Rachmaninov Cello Sonata

Rachmozartian gold

THE AROMA of big business positively oozed from the Benson and Hedges music festival at Snape Maltings. Apart from the ‘Golden Girls’ in immaculate uniforms with scrupulous hairdos, lavishing large bundles of dahlias on all the performers, there was the large table cloth emblazoned with B & H squarely confronting the camera for the announcement of the winner of the singing competition.

The concerts were devoted to the chamber music of Mozart and Rakhmaninov. If the array of personalities on show was not quite as glittering as last year, there were, amongst much that was at best routine and at worst unfortunate, some memorable and half a dozen remarkable performances. In general the finest concerts were not given by the ‘establishment’ (represented by Annie Fischer, Tamás Vásáry and Bozena Betley — none of them on the best form) but by the younger generation.

Jean-Philippe Collard, the French pianist, in his first recital in this country (October 6) made a tremendous impact in Rakhmaninov’s Etudes Tableaux and the G sharp minor Prelude. Very tall, with huge hands and long fingers, he conjures a relaxed fluid line, soft textured and subtle — a far cry from the frenzied thumping of more obviously dexterous virtuosi (we were given a piano-destroying example of that style on October 4 by Craig Sheppard, pounding through the Second Sonata like an ox on egg- shells). Despite his height and his reputation in France as a hard- hitting tennis player, Collard is a gentle, almost immobile, pianist, although the fire is there when it is needed.

The Alban Berg Quartet’s account of Mozart’s K458 (The Hunt) was one of the high points of the week; lively but not lightweight, with a Viennese dynamism and a faultless unanimity of ensemble. The young American clarinettist Richard Stoltzman’s unique fluting tone and extraordinarily responsive partnering of Vásáry and Atar Arad (like András von Toszeghi later in the week taking over the pieces Cecil Aronowitz was to have played) in the E flat trio, K498, and in the Clarinet Quintet with the Amadeus had many usually unimpressable musicians proclaiming him the world’s finest.

Opinion was firm, though, that one of the finest items was Julian Lloyd Webber and Roger Vignoles in Rakhmaninov’s Op 19 Cello Sonata. Their playing was passionate and lyrical, intense but above all integrated, achieving the sense of unity that happens only when the players immerse their personalities in the music. Vignoles (whose accompanying throughout the week was of the highest order) threw off the almost perversely difficult piano part with apparent nonchalance and was fresh and ready the following morning to accompany the two Russian contestants in the Gold Award.Rachmozartian gold