Unexpected Songs

Available on Amazon

ArkivMusic.com 2006

Unexpected Songs review

Release Date: 07/18/2006

Label: Emi Classics

Composer: Richard M. Sherman, Traditional, Astor Piazzolla, Michael Balfe, Frédéric Chopin, Sir Edward Elgar, Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov, Oscar Rasbach, Reynaldo Hahn, Amy Woodforde Finden, Nitin Sawhney, Gabriel Fauré, Roger Quilter, Franz Schubert, Carl Orff, James Horner, Edward MacDowell, Andrew Lloyd Webber

Performer: Catrin Finch, Julian Lloyd Webber, Pamela Chowhan, Steafan Hannigan, Pete Lockett, John Lenehan, Michael Ball

Unexpected Songs CDI normally don’t get too excited about recitals such as this one, but Unexpected Songs appealed to me because much of the repertoire is so, well—unexpected. Yes, we’re given the obligatory Fauré Sicilienne (arranged by the composer himself), and Schubert’s Ständchen, and Chopin’s E-Minor Prelude, but we’re also given arrangements of songs I associate with singers from a bygone era—people such as Jan Peerce, Richard Tauber, and Dame Clara Butt. Indeed, one rarely hears Rasbach’s Trees (“I think that I shall never see/a poem as lovely as a tree”) or Amy Woodforde-Finden’s Kashmiri Love Song without also hearing the hiss and crackle of a 78-rpm record in the background. Arranging Elgar’s “In Capri” (from Sea Pictures) also was an interesting idea, as was an arrangement of “In trutina” from Orff’s inescapable Carmina burana. Both work well in this guise. If the names Caractacus Potts and Truly Scrumptious mean anything to you, then you’ll know I am alluding to Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, the movie musical from the 1960s. “Hushabye Mountain,” one of the loveliest songs from the Richard Sherman’s score, works just splendidly as a duet for cello and harp. So does “I Dreamt I Dwelt in Marble Halls,” from Michael Balfe’s The Bohemian Girl. When was the last time you heard that, outside of your grandmum’s house? Perhaps to remind us that he is Andrew Lloyd Webber’s brother, the cellist has ended the CD with one of ALW’s very best songs—not “Memory” from Cats, but the eponymous “Unexpected Song” from Song & Dance. Here the cellist is joined by Michael Ball, who sings the song with unexpected restraint. A quiet bravo!

With Unexpected Songs, Julian Lloyd Webber has created a fine cello CD for late-night listening. There’s no grandstanding, and no emotional excess to disturb the quietly wistful mood throughout. It’s as if a lover were gently murmuring in your ear. I also like the subtle contribution of Steáfán Hannigan’s uilleann pipes in numbers, such as the opening Star of the County Down/Lady D’Arbanville, and his whistling (!) in The Lea Rig. A little folkishness can go a long way, and I am glad that someone had the good sense to stop applying the “local color” long before it turned into a cliché. As a result, Unexpected Songs, while not just unexpected, is also tasteful.

This CD won’t rock anyone’s world, but in a stressful world filled with the bland and the obvious, Unexpected Songs is packed with quietly savory surprises.

Classic FM Magazine September 2006

Unexpected Songs review

Unexpected Songs CDIt’s always interesting to see cellists push out the walls of their comfort zone. On Unexpected Songs – the title a hint towards the sheer breadth of music therein — Britain’s leading cellist ventures into ethnic territory Arrangements of pieces by Nitin Sawhney (the wistful Songbird), and a traditional African lullaby sit alongside classical pieces by Chopin, Schubert, Elgar and Orff, as well as folk, soundtrack excerpts (‘Hushabye Mountain’ from Chitty Chitty Bang Bang is spine-tingling) and show tunes, including brother Andrew’s title track, taken from the musical Song And Dance and featuring Michael Ball. The spectral harp of guest star Catrin Finch enchants throughout.

Anna Britten