Walton Cello Concerto

Classics Today December 2004

Walton Cello Concerto

The coupling is a logical one: the cello concertos of Elgar and Walton, played by British cellist Julian Lloyd Webber, an empathetic artist with a special affinity for English cello literature. Lloyd Webber’s recording of Elgar’s Cello Concerto in E minor was made in July 1985, with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Yehudi Menuhin. It is a deeply-felt performance, imbued with a touching degree of modesty, placing it among this artist’s finest documents on CD. Lloyd Webber’s plangent tone and unhurried approach fully engages the nobility and the valedictory content of the work in equal degree. Particularly moving is the Adagio, notable for its restraint and for much exceptionally beautiful quiet playing. Frequently compared with the classic 1965 EMI recording by Jacqueline Du Pré with the London Symphony Orchestra under Barbirolli, Lloyd Webber’s account is no less powerfully eloquent.

Curiously however, when this performance first appeared, it was paired with Menuhin’s recording of Elgar’s Enigma Variations, generally a splendid account, now supplanted by Lloyd Webber’s 1996 performance (with the Academy of St. Martin in the Fields under Neville Marriner) of the Cello Concerto by William Walton. That’s not to say that Lloyd Webber’s Walton is any less convincing nor impressive than his Elgar, but simply that the earlier Philips Digital Classics package had seemed well worth preserving. This reading of the Walton concerto, however, has been beautifully recorded. The meticulously balanced production allows the complex inner fabric of Walton’s score to be laid clearly before the listener, and Lloyd Webber understands its underlying luxuriance, debating its opulence and expressive warmth to good effect. Compared with Lyn Harrell’s EMI version with Simon Rattle and the City of Birmingham Symphony, the Lloyd Webber/Marriner collaboration is more deeply considered and more faithful to the letter of the score, and the slightly smaller orchestral resources employed help the soloist to prove convincingly that in expressive terms, less is often more. Another worthy inclusion in the Phillips 50 series, but the original coupling of Elgar’s concerto and Variations seemed more or less complete in itself, so why change it?

Michael Jameson

Penguin Guide to CDs 1999

Though Walton’s Cello concerto, written for Piatigorsky, and Britten’s tough and gritty Cello Symphony, written for Rostropovich, are strongly contrasted in mood and style, Julian Lloyd Webber in a unique coupling, passionately performed, draws fascinating parallels. Helped by sumptuous recording, his reading of the Walton firmly establishes this as a worthy counterpart to Walton’s two pre-war concerto masterpieces for Viola and violin, bringing out the beauty as well as the romantic warmth, helped by fine playing from Marriner and the Academy.

Diapason 1998

Walton Cello Concerto

Symphonie concert ante pour violoncelle et orchestre.

WALTON: Concerto pour violoncelle

Julian Lloyd Webber (violoncelle),

Academy of St. Martin in the Fields, Sir Neville Marriner. Philips 454 442-2 (CD: 168 F). 01996. TT: 1 h 06’35”.

TECHNIQUE: 8,5 – Grande image orchestra Ie bien construite. Bonne definition. Dynamique imporrante.

Deux chefs-d’ceuvre qui n’ont en commun que d’avoir ete concus pour de grands violoncellistes russes: le Concerto de Walton pour Gregor Piatigorsky et la Symphonie de Britten pour Mstislav Rostropovitch. Aussi dissemblables que le jour et la nuit, ils exigent’du soliste des qualites tres differentes, et cela n’est pas l’un des moindres merites de Julian Lloyd Webber que de repondre avec une egale ferveur au romantisme chaleureux de Walton comme aux tragiques ruminations de Britten.

Equivoque et élusive, la Symphonie de ce dernier concilie l’univers féerique du Songe avec l’atmosphère tragique du War Requiem. Son langage fragmenté et pointilliste, sa matière torturée et fuyante en font l’une des pages les plus difficiles d’accès de son auteur. Le violoncelle doit ici concilier des exigences digitales vertigineuses avec une sobriété presque désincarnée, cultivant un rimbre neutre ou une acidité presque grinçante, alternant ici et là avec un lyrisme âpre davantage enclin à la violence qu’à l’effusion. La remarquable intériorité de Julian Lloyd Webber remplit admirablement le contrat: on admirera les tournoiements vertigineux et fantomatiques du Scherzo, puis l’onirisme conféré à l’ineffable dialogue entre le violoncelle, le cor et le basson dans la Passacaille finale.

Production d’un été indien vouée aux délices d’Ischia, née de la contemplation de la nature et du ciel méditerranéen, le Concerto de Walton offre au contraire au soliste l’occasion de déployer tout le luxe de sa riche palette sonore. Assurément il se retrouve ici en pays de connaissance: il nous avait donné naguère un mémorable Concerto de Delius, et c’est bien aux charmes d’un « jardin du Paradis» que s’abandonne lui aussi avec une grâce nonchalante et sensuelle ce capiteux poème de la Nature. Et c’est bien au rythme de la baguette d’un magicien que semblent s’égoutter, pour l’épilogue, les ruissellements sonores de la harpe, du célesta et du xylophone, éveillant le soliste pour une dernière extase, illuminée du ravissement, de la langueur et de la béatitude des rêves à demi-éveillés.


BBC Music Magazine 1997

Critics Choice

Britten Cello Symphony

Walton Cello Concerto

Julian Lloyd Webber

Philips 454442-2 ****

Nicholas Williams, music critic, the Independent


Britten: Cello Symphony

Walton: Cello Concerto

Julian Lloyd Webber (cello); Academy of St Martin in the Fields/Neville Marriner Philips 454 442-2 66:35 mins

The coupling seems obvious, yet is rarely found in the gramophone archives: the Britten Cello Symphony and Walton Cello Concerto are complementary opposites. The link on this disc is Julian Lloyd Webber’s distinctive sound which finds resonant depth in both. Lloyd Webber discovers something new in the Walton – or so it seems, such is his artistry. In the Britten, superb orchestral playing reveals lines and colours undiscovered by previous recordings. (Reviewed October 1997)

Hi-Fi News & Record Review November 1997

Britten Cello Symphony

Walton Cello Concerto

BRITTEN: Symphony for Cello & Orchestra

WALTON: Cello Concerto

Julian Lloyd webber (vlc)/ASM/Marriner

Philips 454 442-2

Despite alternative versions, this is solo interpretation and orchestral collaboration par excellence. Lloyd Webber, whose cello tone reminds me of the long departed Beatrice Harrison’s, has a special affinity with British composers; and Marriner always comes up trumps in concerts and at sessions where great events are the order of the day. Since Rostropovich’s epic-making world premiere of the Britten, other artists have struggled to emulate the Russian’s visionary performances that we heard back in 1963. This one clarifies two things for me: what a fine work it really is, when the balance of instrumentation is so finely judged and the music is allowed to flow naturally; and just how advanced recording techniques can enhance your musical enjoyment. There are no top-heavy emphases in tuttis, or those solo spotlights that take attention away from the score, but a crystal-clear realization of all this complex work demands.

Lloyd Webber’s description of the Walton’s ‘Mediterranean warmth and sexuality’ became the subject of a three-way Radio 3 discussion recently. Although Harrell/Rattle [EMI] and Cohen/Litton [Decca] equate the solo cello’s sonorous beauties to Walton’s sumptuously rich orchestral textures, Lloyd Webber’s half-veiled tones balance perfectly with Marriner’s natural, warm-styled accompaniment. This is a glowing account of the work in which dynamics are scrupulously observed throughout, and with no sense of lingering during slower passages – for example, in the first of the three cello cadenzas, (ii) four before 19, Lloyd Webber alters his ‘rubato ad lib’ to an accelerando, in order to match the ‘poco meno mosso’ orchestral re-entry and the overall Allegro appassionato tempo direction.

An essential addition to the ever-growing British Music discography.


BBC Music Magazine 1997

Britten: Cello Symphony

Walton: Cello Concerto

Julian Lloyd Webber (cello);

Academy of St Martin in the Fields/Neville Marriner

Philips 454 442-2 66:35 mins

These are starkly contrasted works, each written for great Russian cellists: the warmly Romantic Walton Concerto for Gregor Piatigorsky, and Britten’s dark and angst-ridden Cello Symphony composed for Rostropovich. The solo part in the Britten is more truly integrated into the work’s fabric – the material is symphonic in weight and treatment, thus justifying the title.

Listeners need not be deterred by the sombre nature of the Britten. Repeated hearings are rewarded by the revelation of many riches -like Britten’s brilliantly inventive and arresting orchestrations using unusual combinations such as double bassoon, bass clarinet, tuba and percussion. The Allegro maestoso first movement, for instance, ends with the disconsolate cello, pizzicato, crushed between a plaintively wailing clarinet and the seethings of the lower-pitched instruments sounding like the snarlings of beasts from hell. And, in the Adagio, there is a magical passage where the cello meditates, remotely, over lightly brushed cymbals and distant trumpets before its gentle musings are crushed by cruel, relentless percussion hammerings. Lloyd Webber plays out Britten’s dark drama with deep conviction and he is ardent in the better-known, sunnier and vivacious Walton Concerto. Marriner and his Academy players give virtuoso performances in support.

Ian Lace


SOUND *****

Classic FM Magazine September 1997

Walton Cello Concerto

It took an altogether more volcanic temperament of English music than Finzi’s to engender Britten’s darkly tremendous Cello Symphony (Philips 454 442-2). Julian Lloyd Webber’s fabulous performance is one of the few I’ve heard that’s at all comparable to that of Rostropovich, for whose transcendent expertise and power the work was written. Lloyd Webber is just as convincing in the wry and romantically sun-dappled sound-world of Walton’s Cello Concerto. Fine accompaniments and ultra-clear recordings set the seal on an exceptional disc.

Malcolm Hayes

Daily Mail 8th August 1997

Walton Cello Concerto

Julian scores a rare treat


IF ANYONE is going to make Benjamin Britten’s Cello Symphony and William Walton’s Cello Concerto popular, it is Julian Lloyd Webber.

Both are late works by their composers and both have suffered from neglect – in the Britten’s case, because of a certain air of East Anglian bleakness. The Walton, on the other hand, has always been considered a sort of poor relation of the much earlier Viola Concerto and Violin concerto.

Lloyd Webber’s new disc is beautifully recorded and he is sympathetically accompanied by Sir Neville Marriner with the St Martin Academy. JLW would be the first to admit that he cannot match the oversized personality of his hero Rostropovich, for whom the Britten work was written. But in his own more restrained, classical fashion, he comes even closer in some ways to the quiet kind of Englishness represented by Britten.

The Walton is beautifully played by both cellist and orchestra and goes straight to the top of the all-too-few recommendations for this work.

Even more than some of the foreigners who have played the concerto, JLW and Sir Neville bring out the Mediterranean quality of Walton’s scoring. *****

Tully Potter

Classic CD Choice August 1997

BRITTEN Cello Symphony, Op. 68 (1963)

WALTON Cello Concerto (1956).

Julian Lloyd Webber (cello); Academy of St Martin in the Fields/Sir Neville Marriner. Philips 454 442-2


‘Exceptional performances by Julian Lloyd Webber, particularly of the Britten’

Britten’s Cello Symphony was completed soon after his War Requiem, whose dark sound-world and mood of embattled radiance it shares. It’s a massive challenge to its soloist – technically, of course, but even more so in terms of sustaining such a huge musical trajectory.

It helps if you’re Rostropovich, for whom the Symphony was written. He’d asked Britten for a brilliant concerto, and instead got something rather different: a four-movement work integrating a solo cello and orchestra in nearly unprecedented style. Nearly, but not quite, for Berg’s Violin Concerto takes a similar approach. Britten admired Berg, with whom he’d once hoped to study, and the Cello Symphony responds to the remarkable example of Berg’s work (a Violin Symphony in all but name).

Rostropovich apart, Julian Lloyd Webber remains one of the few players around who are truly on terms with the Cello Symphony’s extreme demands. As ever, the sound he makes here is not in itself huge, but its production is wonderfully true, accurate, and gloss-free, so that the notes really speak for themselves. The result, combined with a fine orchestral contribution, is a listening experience that’s powerfully moving. For good measure there’s also Walton’s Concerto, in its own way as true to its composer’s mastery as the Symphony is to Britten’s. Lloyd Webber deftly catches its shadowed-sunlight mood, although not even he can get its stop-go finale quite to hang together. The recordings, though better suited to the cool climate of Britten’s East Anglia than the warmth of Walton’s Italy, are strikingly clear and vivid.

Malcolm Hayes

Gramophone August 1997

Britten Cello Symphony/Walton Cello Concerto


Britten Cello Symphony Walton Cello Concerto Lloyd Webber; ASMF / Marriner


Britten Symphony for Cello and Orchestra, Op.68.

Walton Concerto for Cello and Orchestra.

Julian Lloyd Webber (vc); Academy of St Martin in the Fields / Sir Neville Marriner.

Philips CD 454 442-2PH (71 minutes: DDD).

Britten – selected comparisons:

Wallfisch, ECO, Bedford (1/86) (CHAN) CHAN8363 Rostropovich. ECO, Britten (9/89) (LOND) 425 100-2LM Isserlis, CLS, Hickox (2/92) (EMI) CDM7 63909-2

Rostropovich, Moscow PO. Britten (5/97) (EMI) CZS5 72016-2

Walton – selected comparisons:

Wallfisch, LPO. Thomson (9/91) (CHAN) CHAN8959 HarreI!, CBSO, Rattle (12/92) (EMI) CDC7 54572-2

Cohen, Bournemouth SO, Litton (10/95) (LOND) 443 450-2LH

A British pair

This is an inspired coupling of two works, closely parallel in the careers of their composers, each reflecting the mastery of a great Russian cellist (respectively Rostropovich and Piatigorsky), but which could hardly be more sharply contrasted. Julian Lloyd Webber in an illuminating note makes that very point, and the passionate commitment of his playing in both works confirms his views. Not only is the power of each piece fully laid out, the beauty – not just in the lusciously romantic Walton Concerto, but in the grittily taxing Britten piece too – is presented as never before on disc, helped by sumptuous, beautifully balanced sound from the Philips team of Dutch engineers. On any count this is the finest, most formidable disc that Julian Lloyd Webber has yet given us.

Anyone wanting this unique coupling need not hesitate, but my intensive comparisons confirm that both performances are more than competitive with the outstanding versions I have listed above, all with different couplings. In the Britten it almost goes without saying that, like his rivals, Lloyd Webber cannot quite command the power and thrust of the dedicatee, Rostropovich, not just in his original studio recording with Britten and the ECO, but in the Russian radio recording of the world premiere in 1964, which has just appeared as part ofa 13-disc EMI set, “The Russian Recordings, 1950-74″.

That said, Lloyd Webber and Sir Neville Marriner, helped by the far greater dynamic range of the recording, not only convey the extraordinary originality of Britten’s scoring in a way beyond any rival, but find an extra expressive warmth. That is so not just in such reflective moments of the long sonata-form first movement as the tranquillo passage at track 1, 2’30” or the pianissimo lusingando at 4’50”, but in the relentless build-up of the Adagio third movement, where the recording superbly brings out the rasp of the brass, including tuba. It is worth noting, too, that Lloyd Webber takes the mercurial second movement even faster than the others, with an even lighter touch. On the Wallfisch version I was disappointed that the soloist is placed so far forward that orchestral detail is masked, and that the EMI sound for the Isserlis is relatively dim.

Wallfisch’s Walton issue from Chandos, by contrast, is the keenest rival to the new disc both in terms of sound and interpretation, and hearing it again reminds me that he studied it with its dedicatee, Piatigorsky. Yet Lloyd Webber is just as individual and imaginative in his phrasing they both outshine the others, for example, in the deeply meditative statement of the theme in the variation finale – and the sumptuousness of the Philips sound makes this if anything even warmer than the Chandos, while the sparky complexity of the central Scherzo is thrillingly clear and trans¬parent. This is a performance which fully confirms this post-war work as vintage Walton, the equal of his pre-war concerto masterpieces for viola and violin. In both the Walton and the Britten Lloyd Webber makes light of the formidable technical difficulties. Plainly this has been a project that has involved him deeply, and he has been wonderfully well served by his collaborators.


Mail on Sunday 13th July 1997

Walton Cello Concerto/Britten Cello Symphony Julian Lloyd Webber

Phlhps 454442-2 ****

Julian Lloyd Webber has joined forces with conductor Sir Neville Marriner to produce this moving new recording of two great cello works. For the Britten, Lloyd Webber makes his cello hum with questing intensity and dark-hued rumblings. He imbues the work with a warped sweetness and a rugged grandeur which brings out the work’s rather Russian feel (it was, after all, written for Rostropovich). Marriner dictates a slow, inexorable tread – the sad, plangent melodies are deliberately trampled underfoot Even the sense of calm in the last movement here seems illusory – a submission, not a resolution. In the Walton too, there is a haunting, unsettling quality to the performance. A disc to test your emotions and your nerve.

James Inverne

The Guardian 11th July 1997

Britten: Cello Symphony;

Walton: Cello Concerto

Lloyd Webber/ASMF/Marriner (Philips 454 442-2) ****

Julian Lloyd Webber, in his finest recording yet, neatly couples two works that, though closely parallel in the careers of their composers, could hardly be more sharply contrasted. Not only does he bring out the power of each work, but the beauty too, both in the lusciously romantic Walton concerto, and in the grittily taxing Britten piece, helped by sumptuous recorded sound. In the Britten, the extraordinary originality of the scoring is presented as never before on disc, while the Walton, in this passionate performance, is confirmed as fully equal to his pre-war concerto masterpieces for viola and violin.

Edward Greenfield

The Independent On Sunday  November 1987

Britten Cello Symphony Walton Cello Concerto


Britten: Cello Symphony/ Walton: Cello Concerto.

Julian Lloyd Webber/ Academy of St Martins/ Neville Marriner.

(Philips, CD.)

These two British classics of the modern cello repertory were written more or less contemporaneously (six years apart) and both for Russian virtuosi (Rostropovich, Piatigorsky) but otherwise they speak for different worlds. The Britten is hard with knuckle whitening tension: brittle, angular and beaten by East Coast winds into one of his least lovable though most remarkable scores. The Walton has its share of nervous drive, but is essentially a wistful, late-Romantic soundscape of a warm Italian summer night – as experienced, no doubt, from the terrace of the composer’s home on Ischia. And Lloyd Webber has the measure of both: a specialist in (even expat) British repertory who feels the music deeply and communicates with passion. In the Britten you won’t find the bite of Rostropovich’s attack in his definitive Sixties recording; and in the Walton it may be that Lynn Harrell’s version for EMI has more muscular power. But no one plays more beautifully than Julian Lloyd Webber, or with more commitment. His instinctive sense of line and all-round musicality are admirable. And with truly opulent support from Marriner, who isn’t afraid to indulge a spot of spangled, starlit magic when the opportunity presents itself, he finds just the right tempo for the opening of the Walton (not easy) and manages the last movement’s tricky shift of gear into the reprise of the big tune with seamless elegance.

Michael White

The Sunday Telegraph 1987

Britten Cello Symphony

Walton Cello Concerto

Classical Records

Michael Kennedy

Britten/ Walton Cello Symphony, Cello Concerto.

Lloyd Webber, AMF/ Marriner (Philips 454442-2).

Britten’s work dates from 1963, Walton’s from 1956. Each was its composer’s first major orchestral work for many years, each was inspired by a great Russian virtuoso (Rostropovich and Piatigorsky). There the resemblance ends. The Cello Symphony is one of Britten’s darkest and mysteriously ambivalent scores, a long and difficult progression from angst and turbulence to what, remembering Billy Budd, one might call a ‘far-shining sail’ ending. Walton’s is a languorous, amorous piece, drenched in Italian sun but not without a vein of melancholy. And for all its apparent conservatism and ease, it is highly original in design and, likethe Britten, makes fiendish demands on the soloist.

Julian Lloyd Webber plays both with intuitive sympathy and a heart-warming perception of their contrasted virtues. His interpretation of the first movement of the Britten is less tense and stormy than Rostropovich’s but in some respects penetrates deeper into its morosely elegiac musings. In Walton’s more cantabile themes, he gives lyrical rein to the long phrasing and is notably skilful and eloquent in the cadenza. Sir Neville Marriner and the Academy of St Martin-in-the-Fields provide excellent support. A fine disc.

Liverpool Echo 13th January 1992

Walton Cello Concerto

WILLIAM LEECE: Philharmonic Hall

REGULAR Phil-goers must reckon they know Elgar’s Enigma Variations so well that nothing in the work can surprise them any longer. But it’ s always nice to be proved wrong and a packed Philharmonic cheered Libor Pesek to the rafters after he conducted Elgar’s old reliable for the first time on Saturday night.

I doubt if anyone In Liverpool had heard the piece played quite so expansively before. Pesek took a brazenly romantic approach from the very first notes, wringing every drop out of the music and encouraging the RLPO to give it everything they had. Above all it worked in the Nimrod variation, with the music slowed right down and the tension and emotion almost unbearable. Pesek has never been afraid to take risks: sometimes he comes unstuck, but more often living dangerously is the way to succeed as the Elgar showed.

In fact the whole of Saturday’s all-English concert was a calculated risk, as Posek was tackling every single work on the programmed for the first time. On top of that, cellist Julian Lloyd-Webber was playing Sir William Walton’s Cello Concerto for only the second time in his career – not that it showed for one moment.

Lloyd-Webber obviously adores the piece, so affectionate and fluent was his performance. But despite his musical eloquence, I remain unconvinced that here is a neglected masterpiece waiting to be taken up by cellists across the world.

At the beginning of the evening came a shimmering account of Sir Michael Tippett’s Fantasia Concertante of a Theme of Corelli which will undoubtedly sounds even better after the orchestra has played it a couple of times on its Canary island tour later this month.

Liverpool Daily Post 13th January 1992

Walton Cello Concerto

Pesek’s show of musical loyalty

RLPO/Pesek/Lloyd Webber


Review by Rex Bawden

LlBOR Pesek, appointed to Liverpool in 1987, declared at the time his determination to explore a comprehensive range of British music. But even his most fervent admirers may not have expected such wholehearted allegiance as Saturday’s programme provided, He has always relished a challenge, and Tippett’s Fantasia Concertante on a Theme of Corelli, followed by Walton’s Cello Concerto and Elgar’s Enigma Variations, was undeniably a tough assignment.

Walton’s Cello Concerto has never been as popular as his two for violin and viola possibly because the strange sequence of variations in the finale never quite seems to work. Despite this, Julian Lloyd Webbber’s masterful interpretation of the solo part must have gone a long way towards convincing the doubters.

Orchestral support was sensitively characterised, with the rapport between conductor and solo¬ist adding to a satisfying performance. Unfortunately, the same could not be said of the Corelli Fantasia, for although Tippett has never actually specified the number of players required, experience suggests that a chamber-sized ensemble is preferable.

Tackling this texturally complex babaroque-type piece with a full string complement including eight double basses, obscured essential detail, caused some ragged edges and often submerged the three orchestral soloists.

While, the days are long past when Elgar should be regarded as the preserve of British conduc¬tors, Pesek’s readlngwas often unacceptably over-romanticised. A dangerously slow introduction set the pattern and Nimrod lacked its essential nobility. Elgar’s vignettes came off better.

All these works will be repeated in Las Palmas and at Tenerife during the orchestra’s tour of the Canary Islands later this month.