These two CDs collect together recordings originally
made during the period 1980-83.
The Rodrigo is spirited, sharp, vital and fluent -
always singing and alive and with no hint academicism. The second movement
appears to extol moonlit Mauresque gardens. A lovely ethereal sound
captured with fidelity to stage depth and dynamic. This is typical Rodrigo
- familiar from Aranjuez and Gentilhombre and to be relished.
The cooling pools are given new twist of lime in the finale. The stereo
separation is wonderful in the Gerhardt arrangement of the aria from
the Villa-Lobos Bachianas.
The emphatically melodramatic Lalo Concerto has the
tone of a concerto that would fit as an interlude in a grand French
opera such as those by Reyer, Massenet or Saint-Saens. Lloyd Webber
summons up, for the andantino, the same soulfully plangent tone
on which he also draws to such grand effect in the rather soupy Kol
Nidrei and in the sentiment-soaked Softly awakes my heart.
By the way BMG it is Camille not Camile. The Bach arioso
is done with dignity staying just the right side of the line of least
resistance. It is done with great dignity.
Popper's Gavotte is a plaything with which Lloyd
Webber gambols. It contrasts with the Fauré Elegie which
muses gravely. Lloyd Webber projects with hoarse extroversion in the
Ritual Fire Dance investing its every turn and twist with life
and freshness - quite an accomplishment in such a warhorse. The Bridge
Scherzetto is one of the three cello and pieces orchestrated
by Francis Cornford. The initial vigour goes into remission in face
of some sentimental poesy. Speaking of which we come to Canteloube's
Baïlero. Here Lloyd Webber's sustained tone is all autumn
gold and soft contours. This is superbly accomplished stuff and Gerhardt
is sensitive and supportive in weaving a glimmering orchestral web.
The second CD includes almost an hour of British music.
He has made sturdily imaginative, considered and perceptive recordings
of the Stanford Cello Sonata No 2, the Delius Sonata and for Lyrita
(still LP-bound I'm afraid) the Frank Bridge Oration. It is no
surprise then to find Lloyd Webber singing his way through the single
movement Delius Concerto. Fenby's arrangement of the Serenade
from Hassan is done with a smoother Delian spirit by Gerhardt
with the National Philharmonic. Handley whose Eventyr and North
Country Sketches are excellent seemed not to have come fully to
terms with the yielding poetry of the Cello Concerto. By the way the
notes say that Hassan is the stage production of James Elroy Flecker's
poem The Golden Road to Samarkand. It isn't. The Golden Road
is a poem which forms part of the Flecker stage play Hassan which
tells an Arabian tale of cruelty, love and illusions.
The Holst Invocation was revived specially for
the original 1979 recording alongside the RVW and the Delius Concerto.
It is luminously orchestrated and while it has the songful fragrance
of the potted palms of the grand hotel and of Dvorak it also reaches
modestly out towards the more ethereal realms of The Ode to Death
and Neptune. While Wagnerian rainbows shimmer so do the mysteries
Holst was to unlock in later years. This is extremely well done by all
Starting as if it has escaped from Holst's Beni
Mora the Sussex Folk Fantasia only gradually settles into
a style we associate with Vaughan Williams. Perhaps it is that we are
unused to RVW and the solo cello. And my how Lloyd Webber makes
the instrument sing and call. The piece was written for Casals who premiered
it at the Queen's Hall on 13 March 1930. Barbirolli conducted the concert
which was for the occasion of the presentation of the Royal Philharmonic
Society's Gold Medal. The jauntiness reminded me of the Tunning of
Elinor Rumming from Five Tudor Portraits as well as, and
surprising this, Aaron Copland. Vaughan Williams intended a full length
cello concerto but this, rather like the opera Tom the Rhymer,
was to remain an unfulfilled project when death intervened in 1958.
The Popper, Saint-Saens and Bach are in arrangements
by the conductor, the late Charles Gerhardt.
The notes variously by the soloist, Ursula Vaughan
Williams, Eric Fenby, David Matthews and Imogen Holst are one of the
legion strengths of this release.
Allowing for my reservations about the Delius Concerto
this is a truly lovely collection that proclaims a master cellist as
adept, sensitive and enthusiastic about the etincellante and operatic
as about the quiet singer - fluent and direct speaking - no musicians'
musician but someone engaged with his audience. I must not forget to
mention the orchestral contribution which is unfailingly alert, varied
and sensitive to mood and nuance. Recommended. I am only sorry I did
not pick up this release earlier.