Time after time RCA and then BMG and then Sony have given their vote of confidence to these recordings. It happens every time they reissue them. There's no reason to believe that they will not continue to reappear and no reason not to celebrate them. Their attractions continue undimmed: readings and recordings that are warm and detailed.
Julian Lloyd Webber is held in great affection and respect in the UK and beyond. I wish we heard more from him in the studio. There he was is quite well documented in the period 1975-85. The present items fall within that decade but since then my impression is that there has been little enough.
The Rodrigo is dedicated to Lloyd Webber and going by its absence from other collections is I suspect his exclusive property. It is spirited, sharp as a knife and vital - always singing. The second movement is bathed in the glow of moonlit terraces, courtyards and fountains: a lovely ethereal sound. This is the Rodrigo familiar from Aranjuez.
The cooling pools are given a new twist of lime and bitters in the finale.
The emphatically melodramatic Lalo Concerto has the tone of a concerto that would fit as an interlude in a grand French opera. Think in terms of the fantasised Orient of Reyer, Delibes, Massenet or Saint-Säens. Lloyd Webber summons, up for the Andantino,
a soulfully plangent tone.
It is no surprise to find Lloyd Webber singing his way through
the single movement Delius Concerto. He has recorded a great deal
of English music though perhaps not as much as his contemporary
Raphael Wallfisch. Even so what he has recorded has been passionately
considered, completely engaged and speaks directly. His English
music triumphs on record have included works by Bantock, Holst,
RVW, Stanford, Ireland and Bridge. One of my unfulfilled hopes
is that one day he will record the cello concertos by John Foulds
(there is one - which shares some material with the equally superb
Foulds Sonata), Stanley Wilson, Malcolm Arnold (the unaccountably
missing Shakespeare Concerto
), Ronald Stevenson and Lionel
Sainsbury. There’s a reconstructed RVW concerto movement as realised
by David Matthews under the title Dark Pastoral
and orchestra. It would seem fitting that Lloyd Webber should
record the piece; he was after all the only one to record the
same composer’s Fantasia on Sussex Folk Tunes
. I would
also like to encourage him to consider another Cinderella of the
repertoire from across the Channel: Florent Schmitt's unaccountably
neglected 1920s cello concerto Introduction, récit et congé.
The late Vernon Handley, whose Eventyr
(CFP) and North Country Sketches
(Chandos) are excellent seemed not to have come fully to terms with the yielding poetry of the Delius Concerto. There are moments where it seems more stilted than fluent. When first issued the Delius came with two other even rarer British concertante works: Holst's Invocation
and the RVW Fantasia on Sussex Folk Tunes
Aside from a few insignificant reservations about the Delius this is a lovely collection that again proclaims this master cellist as adept, imaginative, sensitive and enthusiastic.