I had the good fortune to hear the first concerto RV532, arranged from one for two mandolins, on Radio 3 and was very impressed. It was delightful therefore to receive this disc for review and to have my original very positive impression endorsed. The
disc has an added distinction, as sadly it will be Julian Lloyd Webber’s last recording due to a neck injury.
The disc begins with RV532 and this sets the high standard for what is to come. If one had doubts as to arranging the distinctive sound of mandolins to cellos then these are dispelled immediately. The playing, throughout, is very accomplished and sensitive and very well captured by the engineers. The success of an arrangement is surely not to feel the instrumentation is incorrect and this is the case here. RV531 follows which is the only one originally written for two cellos and was at a lower level of inspiration than the first piece. Fortunately RV409, originally written for one cello follows and this is an exciting piece with changes of tempo in the middle movement. The finale showcases Lloyd Webber’s expertise on the instrument and signposts the way for Haydn’s concerto a generation later.
RV545 is a most appealing work with the first movement originally destined for the instrumentation in a cantata. The arrangement from oboe to bassoon is seamless and again showcases the fine playing of the soloists; those who listen to the countless versions of the Four Seasons
should definitely give this a listen. RV539 was originally conceived for two horns. This is a delightful piece with the cellos' imitation of hunting calls in the outer movements. The lullaby nature of the middle movement is very touching articulated by restrained playing and sympathetic accompaniment. RV812 was only discovered less than ten years ago. This was originally written for violin and the arrangement for two cellos again works well even if the piece is not as distinguished as some of the others here.
The final item is an arrangement of a Milonga
(tango dance) from Piazzolla's Concerto for Bandoneon — a type of concertina — and Guitar. To say that this is a contrast to what’s come before is an understatement. The plaintive melody is well suited to the cello and as throughout the playing is first class: a most effective and original way to end this disc.
This is undoubtedly a successful disc which will appeal to many, especially at Naxos price. Perhaps not to be taken in one sitting but a couple of the concertos at a time. It is sad if this is to be Julian Lloyd Webber’s last record but if it is, he is signing off in some style.
David R Dunsmore