Tchaikovsky Rococo Variations

Birmingham Post 16th February 2009

Tchaikovsy Rococo Variations in A minor Op.33

Russian State Philharmonic Orchestra at Symphony Hall

Shostakovich’s sixth symphony, wedged between the popular fifth and the epic Leningrad, is an enigmatic little work.

Great claims have been made for it but perhaps that is because, between those two huge musical edifices, it is felt it ought to be a major work. The opening largo remains unconvincingly generalized, a gesture rather than substance. The two succeeding movements sound like the composer on auto-pilot: shrieking woodwind, pounding percussion and almost hysterical gaiety. Despite the work’s limitations the Russian State Philharmonic Orchestra, under Valery Poliansky, gave it their all, whipping up an audience-pleasing climax.

The composer’s second piano concerto was written for his son, here it was played by the conductor’s daughter Tatyana. The Rachmaninov-inspired central movement was a little too slow but never cloying. In Polianskaya’s hands the comic finale gambolled along irresistibly.

Tchaikovsky is the most maligned of composers but Julian Lloyd Webber’s performance of the Variations on a Rococo Theme, for cello and orchestra, was an antidote to the caricature of Tchaikovsky as musically vulgar and maudlin. The work is witty, elegant and romantic.

Tchaikovsky’s Dante-inspired tone poem Francesca da Rimini started tentatively but, urged on by Poliansky, the infernal winds were soon howling through the strings, brass louring menacingly, until the blessed relief of its serene still centre, illuminated by plaintive woodwind.

Norman Stinchcombe

The Scotsman June 3rd 2008

Tchaikovsy Rococo Variations Op.33



HOW often do you find the likes of violinist Tasmin Little, pianist Peter Donohoe, cellist Julian Lloyd Webber and soprano Lesley Garrett on the same concert billing, and with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra to boot? Well, that was the line-up for the finale to the Perth Festival – a classical version of Sunday Night at the London Palladium.

And it certainly drew the crowds, who soaked up the gentle breeze that was Little’s affectionate pairing of Beethoven’s Romance No 2 in F and Vaughan Williams’ The Lark Ascending (the piece every Classic FM listener apparently wants as their desert island favourite), delivered by the petite violinist with a mixture of uncharacteristic detachment and understatement.

Donohoe even managed to draw some amusement from Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue, when he faltered for a second, trying to decide which way to cross his hands. In fact, it was a performance, like Little’s, that seemed a tad uncomfortable, as if he had come back to this work after a long period away from it. But old pros like Donohoe don’t shake easily; bravado brought it off.

Lloyd Webber’s fresh-faced performance of Tchaikovsky’s Variations on a Rococo Theme had complete composure from start to finish. He urged the music along with breathless ease, begging the same response for the RPO, but not always getting it. Sunday night’s playing under Philip Ellis, which included a rather ordinary romp through Rossini’s William Tell overture, was not this orchestra at its finest.

And then there was dear old Lesley, who introduced her own operatic selection with enough soft sentiment to charm the knitting pattern off an old auntie.

The songs were nothing spectacular, but were delivered like the consummate entertainer she is.

Kenneth Walton

The Daily Telegraph 1st July 2002

Tchaikovsky Rococo Variations (original version)

Pipes and fireworks end a stirring Scottish jamboree

” For the ultimate in graceful seduction, one had to look no further than cellist Julian Lloyd Webber…In Rococo Variations, and pieces from his brother’s Variations, his playing was like the whispering of sweet nothhings, and his nimble finger and bow work were the stuff from which dreams are made.”

The Mail on Sunday 15th April 2001

Elgar, Dvorak and Saint Saens Cello Concertos

For he’s a jolly good cello…

David Mellor

Julian Lloyd Webber was 50 yesterday, a fitting moment to pay tribute to an outstanding artist and one of music’s nicest and most approachable of men. He recognises no musical barriers and effortlessly straddles the divide between popular and serious that cuts off so many others from their audience.

His next album will be arrangements of his brother’s most memorable melodies. But that same Julian Lloyd Webber is touring north of the border this week, giving the world premiere of a notably uncompromising piece by Scotland’s most promising serious composer, James MacMillan, his Cello Sonata No 2.

Julian has never despised a good tune and throughout his career has either made himself or commis¬sioned from others arrangements of great melodies from opera or the repertoire of other instruments. He reasons: why should the devil have all the good tunes when the cello always sounds the noblest of the lot? And few make it sound more beautiful than Julian on his Stradivarius.

So, on his discs, Gounod’s ‘Ave Maria’ and Bach’s ‘Jesu, Joy Of Man’s Desiring’ rub shoulders with an award-winning Elgar Cello Concerto, while ‘Softly Awake My Heart’ from Samson And Delilah sits comfortably alongside the world premiere recording of the Cello Concerto the great Rodrigo himself wrote for Julian in 1982.

Julian has made more than 50 world premiere recordings, pushing out the boundaries of the cello repertoire in all directions. Michael Nyman wrote a concerto for cello and saxophone for him, while Gavin Bryars achieved considerable kudos from his concerto for Julian, ‘A Farewell To Philosophy’.

Julian’s discography is a long one, so let me pull out two plums. The recordings he made for RCA in the early Eighties have been gathered together in a twofer. Celebration, in honour of his birthday and include, as well as the Rodrigo recording, some outstanding English music: Delius’s Concerto, an unjustly neglected piece, and Hoist’s Invocation, which is heard today solely because of Julian’s efforts.

Philips started recording him in 1984 and some of the finest fruits of his labours for them have been put on to an inexpensive two-CD set entitled Favourite Cello Concertos. Here his outstanding Elgar, with Yehudi Menuhin conducting, is coupled with a particularly fine account of the Dvorak Concerto recorded in Prague with the Czech Philharmonic.

There is the original version of Tchaikovsky’s lovable Rococo Variations and a stunning Saint-Saens First Concerto with the son of another cellist, Yan Pascal Tortelier, on the podium. This recording more than any other shows Julian at his absolute best. Every nuance has been digested and rehearsed, so what you get is a remarkably detailed reading, with all sorts of things you do not hear elsewhere making their impression, without damaging the overall sweep of this commanding work.

Julian has never taken his fame for granted and practises several hours a day. When he started there were some who suggested he was benefiting from the Lloyd Webber name. I am equally certain that the name has often inhibited recognition of just how special he is.

Why not judge for yourselves, not just from the discs, but from a celebratory concert to be given by Julian and his brother at the Royal Albert Hall on June 1, when they will play in public for the first time music from the forthcoming Julian Plays Andrew CD. Tickets are reasonably priced and the cause, the Prince’s Trust, is a worthwhile one. I’m not missing it. Neither should you.

David Mellor

Gramophone April 1999

Favourite Cello Concertos

Julian Lloyd Webber (vc) with various artists.

A first-class package in every way. As we know from his live performances, Julian Lloyd Webber has a firm, richly coloured and full-focused tone; moreover it records well. His lyrical warmth projects tellingly over the entire range and his involvement in the music communicates consistently and tellingly. He has chosen his accompanists well too. His account of the great Dvorak concerto is full of passionate feeling, with a tender Adagio, and Neumann and the Czech Philharmonic give him thoroughly persuasive backing, playing with plenty of bite in tuttis, the Slavonic exuberance always to the fore. His performance of the Elgar concerto has the huge advantage of Lord Menuhin as his partner, a true Elgarian if ever there was one. It is a performance of real understanding and rare intensity, which never oversteps the work’s emotional boundaries and is imbued with innate nostalgia: the Adagio has a haunting Elysian stillness. The Saint-Saens is played for the splendid bravura war-horse that it is, and we are also given a rare chance to hear the original, uncut version of Tchaikovsky’s Rococo Variations. Lloyd Webber soon proves that it is superior to the truncated version used in most other recordings; moreover his spontaneous warmth in Tchaikovsky’s long-drawn lyrical lines, which he makes sound very Russian in character, makes a perfect foil for the sparkling virtuosity elsewhere.

Among the encores the lovely Traumerei stands out for its freely improvisational feeling and Lloyd Webber’s own catchy, slight but romantic personal tribute to Jacqueline du Pre is played as an ardent, tuneful and timely postscript.

Ivan March

The Australian 15th March 1999

Tchaikovsky Rococo Variations (original version)

ASO strikes chord in romancing crowds

Adelaide Symphony Orchestra Takuo Yuasa, conductor. Julian Lloyd Webber, cello. Adelaide Town Hall.

JUDGING by the full house for the Adelaide Symphony Orchestra’s opening Town Hall concert of the year, the orchestra’s enterprising publicity strategies seem to be working.

The first of three Romantic Symphonies concerts was an all-tsarist Russian program spanning the middle 1800s to the early years of our century.

Takuo Yuasa is a skilful and experienced conductor, but he started badly with a breathless reading of Glinka’s Ruslan and Ludmila, Overture, obscuring its elegant statements in a hurried dash for the finishing line.

Julian Lloyd Webber is a fine cellist and a commanding presence. Tchaikovsky’s 1876 Variations on a Rococo Theme was a splendid vehicle for his individual style, especially as it was given as the composer wrote it and not in the considerably distorted form in which it was first published.

Written for a transparently scored, Mozart size orchestra, the spare texture gives the cello plenty of room to speak, and Lloyd Webber filled the hall with a stunning range of beautiful sounds.

The virtuoso element of this piece lies in perfect clarity of melodic line rather than athletic feats of fingerwork and Lloyd Webber’s lovely tone, finely judged bowing and perfect upper register intonation made this a memorable performance.

In response to the audience’s warm reception, he played music by Malcolm Arnold, a reminder that Lloyd Webber is an enthusi¬astic supporter of new music.

The short first half left room for Rachmaninov’s enormous Second Symphony, written in the last days of Old Europe before the world changed forever in 1914.

The music perfectly reflects the atmosphere of that time – luxurious, extravagant and expansive but a shade over the top – in Russian musical terms, the revolutionary Stravinsky was getting ready to launch his first startling orchestral missiles, but this work is a fine example of the last stages of a great period.

The 24 minutes of the first movement was greeted with scat tered applause, but there were more than 40 minutes still to come and a punishing outlay of sustained energy called for.

The ASO, fresh from its Wagnerian triumph of last year, was well able to weave Rachmaninov’s elaborate tapestry of sound, unison strings in full melodic voice often counterpointing tlie strong quartet of horns led by Philip Hall.

Outstanding wind solos were Peter Duggan on cor anglais and Gregory Blackman’s sinuous and extended clarinet melody in the slow movement. A promising Start to the ASO’s mainstream concert year.


The Miami Herald 14th May 1994

Tchaikovsky Rococo Variations (original version)

Rococo Variations stunning illumination of Tchaikovsky

Tchaikovsky has been royally feted at the Florida Philharmonic ‘Proms’. Last month, Marin Alsop and Joshua Bell converged brilliantly on the Violin Concerto in a program that also held a resilient performance of the Fifth Symphony. And Wednesday night, James Judd joined his compatriot, British cellist Julian Lloyd Webber, in a performance of the Rococo Variations that was so exquisite it will remain indelible.

In decades of concertgoing, I’ve become a hopelessly spoiled aisle-sitter. I can vividly recall the Rococo Variations played incisively by such cellists as Pierre Foumier, Andre Navarra, Antonio Janigro, Leonard Rose, Mstislav Rostropovich – and, not so long ago with the Florida Philharmonic, Janos Starker, But never have I heard the intimate character of this masterwork more eloquently drawn and penetrated than by Julian Lloyd Webber.

Not only is he a superlative cellist with seemingly effortless technique, but he also is a marvelous musician who pays keen attention to tender tone coloring. He can turn fluted harmonics into the wispiest filaments of tone, and he knows all about this work as a Tchaikovskian salute to Mozart. Judd knows about such things, too. Remember how he once brought out the Hande-lian overtones in Beethoven’s Consecration of the House Overture. Well, this time there was superb transparency of orchestral texture and a chamber music rapport with Lloyd Webber. Each variation sounded freshly minted – in fact, one variation traditionally omitted since the first performance by Fitzenhagen in 1877 was restored here so that the old war horse sounded even newer. A deserved standing ovation coaxed Lloyd Webber into a poignant encore: the first movement of a Malcolm Arnold fantasy.

Judd and the Philharmonic also offered first-rate performances on their own. Tchaikovsky’s seldom-heard Hamlet Fantasy Overture sounded like a major masterwork, too, profoundly enriching in its broad theme for cellos, reinforced by violas and double basses. This is an unjustly neglected score filled with lovely woodwind parts, including that reflective oboe solo, so thoughtfully yet fluidly phrased by John Dee.

The Fourth Symphony also was exceptionally well-played, even minus the luscious tone of more famous orchestras. Judd I captured enough of the drama in the heroic moments, probing the work with extraordinary understanding of inner detail. He even clued the audience into one folk theme that inspired Tchaikovsky in this symphony by asking a Russian-speaking Philharmonic player to sing the folk tune (quite nicely) for the audience. When great music is recreated with such acute perception, it’s no longer the cake of leisure; it is the bread of life.


American Record Guide December 1993

Tchaikovsky Rococo Variations (original version)

Tchaikovsky & Miaskovsky/LSO/Maxim Shostakovich (Philips)

“Lloyd Webber’s ability…sets his performance (of the Miaskovsky) apart from a previous rendition by Rostropovich that lacks the total integration with the orchestra that these two artists (Lloyd Webber and Shostakovich) bring to the piece. This is really a lovely recording of this little-known piece.”

The Strad September 1993

Tcaikovsky Rococo Variations (original version)

Tchaikovsky & Miaskovsky/LSO/Maxim Shostakovich (Philips)

“Above all Lloyd Webber treats this Tchaikovsky “Rococo” Variations as chamber music, and in that respect probably comes closer than any to the composer’s original intention.”

David Denton

CD Review (USA) March 1993

Tchaikovsky Rococo Variations (original version)

NICOLAI MIASKOVSKY Cello Concerto in C Minor Op. 66

SHOSTAKOVICH Adagio (from “The Limpid Stream”)

TCHAIKOVSKY Variations on a Rococo Theme Op. 33; Nocturne in D Minor

Julian Lloyd Webber (cello); London Symphony, Maxim Shostakovich

PHILIPS 434 106-2 1992, 63:48

Nicolai Miaskovsky wrote tons of music, and although some of it is not very interesting in a thematic sense, this gorgeous concerto is a real find. The opening, an elegiac and expansive slow movement, shows the hand of a master in virtually every bar. The entrance of the solo, accompanied by smooth-toned clarinets, is darkly memorable, as is the oboe counterpoint to the cello’s gradual ascent into the welcoming embrace of the upper strings and horns. The ensuing “Scherzo” features a tune that sounds almost English in its modal inflections, though it’s the finale, with its deeply poetic, quiet ending, that undoubtedly keeps this work out of the repertoire. No virtuoso showmanship here, but virtuoso musicianship in abundance. The same might be said of Julian Lloyd Webber’s performance – simple, direct, unaffected, but never unaffectionate. It draws you in and grips you from first note to last.

In the Tchaikovsky variations played as the composer wrote them, correct in order and number Lloyd Webber refuses to drool over the music the way many cellists do (even Rostropovich preferred comparative restraint). The result is perfectly in character a more nostalgic, wistful journey back in musical time than we sometimes get. Although the shorter items make attractive encores, the selections are perhaps best enjoyed separately not as a complete program heard at one sitting.

Maxim Shostakovich proves himself a tine accompanist, and Philips’ sound is outstandingly rich and well balanced.

David Hurwitz

Stereo Review November 1992

Tchaikovsky Rococo Variation (original version)

Recording of the Month – Tchaikovsky Rococo Variations

Tchaikovsky & Miaskovsky/LSO/Maxim Shostakovich (Philips)

“You can’t go wrong with the new Philips recording. It is the genuine article and very beautifully played.”

Repertoire August 1992


Adagio du ruisseau limpide. – TCHAIKOVSKI Variations rococo, Nocturne en ré mineur

Julian Lloyd Webber (violoncelle)

Orchestre Symphonique de Londres

Dir. Maxime Chostakovitch

Sous le titre ‘ d’oeuvres représtatives du post-romantisme académique russe’, l’excellent livret de P.E. Barbier nous définit le cheminement créatif et les points communs de ces quatre opus. Le Concerto dc Miaskovski (auteur entre autres de 27 Symphonies et de 9 Sonates publiées que l’on écoutera avec profit dans l’intégrale McLachlan chez Olympia) est une pure merveille d’écriture lisztienne et schuman-nienne. Le violoncelle est traité comme la voix humaine et l’orchestration très riche crée une notion et attige d espace qui permet au ta lent très improvisateur de Webber de s’exprimer.

Avec l’Adagio du ruisseau limpide de Chostakovitch. on tient la première occidentale de la quatrième partie (Adagio des cinq tableaux de cette « comédie-ballet e, chorégraphie des années 1929/1934. Avec la mise â l’index de l’opéra Lady Mac- bath de Chostakovitch et par là- même du début de la dictature musicale de l’ère nouvelle stalinienne, l’auteur du Net avait choisi un thème propre à mettre en avant l’ironie d’une action se situant entre Kholkoziens dans une ferme collective à Cuba… L’Adagio fait partie de la suite d’orchestre. Voyons-y un sublime pastiche d’un ballet tchaïkovskien (cantilène du violoncelle avec accompagnement de harpe) où, subi tement, émerge l’harmonie et la rythmique de la future Leningrad. Certes plus concertantes et moins originales, les Variations rococo et le Nocturne (tiré d’une des nombreuses transcriptions du numéro 4 de l’opus 19 pour piano seul sont joués avec une grande sobriété par Webber qui. évite toute surcharge â ces pages surannées concluant intelligemment cc récital bien ficelé.

Stéphane Friéderich

LE DEVOIR 2Oth May 1992

Tchaikovski, Variations sur un thème rococo op.33

Joindre l’utile à l’agréable

Concerto pour violoncelle op.66; Chostakovitch, Le ruisseau limpide:

Tchaikovski, Variations sur un thème rococo op.33 (version originale),

Nocturne en ré mineur Philips

English Chamber Orchestra. Dir. Yan-Pascal Tortelier ; Saint-Saens,Concerto pour violoncelle op.33, Allegro appassionato op,43; Fauré,Elégie op.24; D’Indy, Lied op.19;

Honegger, Concerto pour violoncelle. Philips 432 084-2.

Royal Philharmonic Orchestra. Dir.

Yehudi Menuhin: Elgar, Concerto pour violoncelle op.85. Variations sur un thème original Enigma op.36.

« ÉTUDIANT, je rêvais de pouvoir un jour faire des disques. Mais comment être certain d’y parvenir, les interprètes étant infiniment plus nombreux que, les grands éditeurs discographiques pour les enregistrer. Par ailleurs, à l’âge de 15 ans, vous ne savez pas comment votre jeu va évoluer. Allez-vous résister aux pressions de toutes sortes? II y a tant de facteurs à prévoir. »

À 40 ans, Julian Lloyd Webber s’est à présent taillé une place au..soleil parmi les meilleurs violoncellistes anglais de sa génération et cela, sans lien direct avec la florissante carrière «pop » de son frère aîné Andrew (l’auteur du Fantôme de l’opéra). Il affirme ne lui devoir rien, ni ses disques (il en a signés 10 chez Philips), ni son superbe Stradivarius, acquis en 1983 dans un encan et qu’U a payé difficilement, précise-t-ii, avec un emprunt de la banque.

Est-elle bonne ou mauvaise, cette relation que certains s’empressent d’établir entre lui et son aîné? D’abord indécis, il finit par avouer qu’elle s’avère plutôt négative en ce qu’elle le prive du bénéfice du doute aux yeux de nombreux mélomanes. Différent, il prétend l’être et pouvoir le prouver.

Aujourd’hui, Julian partage ses efforts entre le concert et l’enregistrement en essayant de rendre ,l’un et l’autre complémentaires. Il croit que le second devrait être le reflet fidèle du premier… une photographie, en quelque sorte. Aussi voit-il avec un vif intérêt la possibilité de graver un CD à partir d’un concert en public. Pour diminuer les risques, on pour- i-ait faire un montage en utilisant deux ou trois exécutions de la même pièce.

Pour le moment Cependant, il déplore que l’abus du montage ait eu pour effet de stériliser un trop grand nombre de disques — acquise de cette manière la perfection engendre des lectures qui se ressemblent toutes et qui ont hélas perdu l’originalité et la fraîcheur des 78 tours d’autrefois, ceux de Pablo Casals ou de sa compatriote Beatrice Harrison qu’il semble admirer particulièrement.

Il souhaite laisser un héritage à la postérité. « Nous pouvons donner autant de concerts que possible clans une vie, au bout du compte, il n’eii restera rien. Alors que les enregistrements, comme les œuvres du compositeur, nous survivront. »

A certains égards, cette pensée lui paraît troublante. Regardez le nombre incroyable de versions que l’on continue de publier des mêmes oeuvres. » Devant ce constat, il a tenté une approche, différente dans la conception d’un disque. Prenons le Concerto d’Elgar, par exemple. « Je voulais le faire avec Menuhin qui à déjà enregistré le concerto de violon en 1932 avec le compositeur au pupitre (édité chez EMI, CDII 7 69786- 2) — ce lien m’a semblé dune importance toute particulière. »

Quant au reste du programme, j’avais pensé que la Sérénade pour coi-des op.20 et l’Introduction et allegro pour cordes op.47 auraient fait le complément tout désigné; cependant Menuhin tenait à enregistrer le Variations enigma. Son choix prévalut en dépit même de la réticence de Philips qui venait de l’inscrire à son catalogue avec André Previn à la tête du même Royal Philharmonic Orchestra (Philips 416 813-2). Je me rendis à son désir car il me sembla que l’idée était encore mei1leire puisqu’il s’agissait d’une oeuvrè, importante et qu’ayant bien connu Elgar, Yehudi avait là quelque chose nous léguer. Par ailleurs, je ne, liç soucie pas d’être la seule vedette d’un disque quand le but premier est de trouver la meilleure façon de servir la musique d’abord.

Le disque russe Tchaikovski/Miaskovski/Chostakovitch emprunte la même démarche. li fut usé avec Maxime Chostakovitch (‘lé fils de Dimitri), ce qui, selon Llà9d Webber, en garantit l’authenticite. C’est d’ailleurs la partition de Nikolai Miaskovki qui lui révéla les qualités exceptionnelles d’un chef malheureusement sous-estimé.

Rappelons que Miaskovski fut l’auteur de 27 Symphonies; il acheva sort unique Concerto pour violoncelle en 1944 (six ans avant sa mort) à l’intention du violoncelliste Sviatolav Knushevitski, Même si d’aucuns taxeront cette musique d’académique”, il demeure qu’elle ne mérite pas in purgatoire qu’on lui a fait subir, considérant qu’elle nous entraîne fort heureusement hors des lieux communs de la littérature concertante pour violoncelle ordinairement en registrée.

Après Honegger et Miaskovski, Julian Lloyd Webber se propose de. ressortir des oubliettes le Concerto pour violoncelle que Paul Hindemith, écrivit en 1940 — à ne pas confondre, avec l’Opus 36/2, terminé én l9.5 Etant donné qu’on ne les joue pratiquement plus en concert, il espère que sès disques les ramèneront l’attention de chefs-d’orchestre qui les ajouteront à leur répertoire.

Voilà donc une façon intelligente de faire quelque chose d’utile. D’autant qu’ici, l’interprète possède une solide technique instrumentale belle compréhension des texte’ et une admirable sensibilité musicale.

Carol Bergeron

Gramophone May 1992

Tchaikovsy Rococo Variations Op.33 (original version)

MIASKOVSKY Cello Concerto in C minor,Op.66.

SHOSTAKOVICH The Limpid Stream. Op.39 Adagio.

TCHAIKOVSKY Variations on a Rococo Theme Op. 33.

Nocturne, Op. 19 No. 4.

Julian Lloyd Webber (vc); London Symphony Orchestra / Maxim Shostakovich.

Philips CD 434 106-2PH (63 minutes:DDD).

A valuable disc, and an enjoyable one. Miaskovsky’s Cello Concerto has remained unjustly neglected by record companies since Rostropovich’s 1956 EMI recording with Sargent and the Philharmonia (available recently in a fine CD transfer, 11/8 – but since deleted). The Shostakovich Adagio as far as I can tell, has never been recorded in this form. It does turn up in the 1951 Ballet Suite No. 2 – slightly cut, and with unhappily bolstered orchestration by the Suite’s compiler, Lev Atovmian. The relative restraint of this original 1935 score, particularly in a performance as expressive as this one, is infinitely preferable, trioiigh its brief, central climax still retains its overwhelming force. Stalin’s reaction to Lady Macbethin 1936 is common knowledge; less well known is that The Limpid Stream too was condemned by Pravda under the caption “Falsity in Ballet”.

Not even Miaskovsky escaped the State’s accusing finger in the second round of condemnations (in 1948), despite winning a Stalin Prize for his Cello Concerto and being titled “People’s Arlist” in 1946. The concerto (1944-5) is modestly orchestrated – the orchestral forces are identical to those used by Brahms in his First Piano Concerto, and it shares with the Elgar and Delius concertos an autumnal mood, albeit wilh an essentially Russian brooding and introspection, given full weight here with Lloyd Webber and Maxim Shostakovich, at 32 minutes, taking four minutes longer than Rostropovich and Sargent. They take their time over the Ruconi Variations, as well: a more ‘authentic’ account of the Original version (described on the score as the “Composer’s Version” i.e. without the cut and rearranged order of the ‘standard’ version) than those recorded by Walllisch (Chandos) and Isserlis (Virgin Classics), both of whom incorporate a few features from the ‘standard’ version – though you would he unlikely to spot the differences, mainly in the fifth variation, without a score. Lloyd Webber’s smooth, rich tone, has not the faintest trace of a rough edge: this is supremely elegant playing.

Jonathan Swain