Julian Lloyd Webber – Unexpected Songs – Julian Lloyd Webber, cello; with John Lenehan, piano/Catrin Finch, harp/Pam Chowhan, piano and keyboard/Steafan Hannigan, Uilleann pipes/Pete Lockett, percussion/Michael Ball, vocals – EMI Classics

by | Nov 4, 2006 | Classical CD Reviews | 0 comments

Julian Lloyd Webber – Unexpected Songs – Julian Lloyd Webber, cello; with John Lenehan, piano/Catrin Finch, harp/Pam Chowhan, piano and keyboard/Steafan Hannigan, Uilleann pipes/Pete Lockett, percussion/Michael Ball, vocals – EMI Classics 3 59488 2, 59:42 ****:

If I had to pick one instrument to listen to for the rest of my days, the cello would rank high on that list.  The warmth of the tone always makes me feel as if someone has wrapped me in a comfortable blanket, a safe harbor within which I can retreat and just lose myself in the sound.  When this instrument is placed in the loving hands of someone as musically skilled as Julian Lloyd Webber, it becomes a symbol of irresistible beauty for the listener.  In this recording, Webber has selected an eclectic mix of pieces.  The CD includes classical standards such as Frédéric Chopin’s Prelude in E minor along with movie music, as evidenced by Richard Sherman’s Hushabye Mountain (from MGM’s Chitty Chitty Bang Bang.)  In between these two extremes, Julian Lloyd Webber presents pleasant surprises such as the achingly beautiful Kashmiri Love Song by Amy Woodforde-Finden, and the traditional African Crib Carol (arranged by F. Ray Bennett, Lenehan and J. Lloyd Webber.)  The CD concludes with one of my favorite Andrew Lloyd Webber tunes, Unexpected Song (from Song and Dance), performed lovingly by British musical theater star Michael Ball and Julian Lloyd Webber in an amiable duet.

If by any chance you are not familiar with this artist, here is a snapshot of his life and career.  Julian Lloyd Webber is regarded as one of the premier cellists in Europe and is by all accounts, immensely popular.  He is a member of an exclusive club whose members include Mstislav Rostropovich and Yo-Yo Ma.  He has given over fifty premier performances of works in his career, and his playing style seems to know no bounds.  His recording catalogue includes works by Dvorák, Tchaikovsky, Britten, and Elgar.  A diverse group of composers, from Malcolm Arnold and Joaquin Rodrigo to James MacMillan and Philip Glass, have written works especially for Webber to perform.  Webber’s website says that he plays the ‘Barjansky’ Stradivarius cello of c.1690.  And, if that is not enough, he shares his musical genes with his musical theater composer brother, Andrew Lloyd Webber.

This is the perfect CD for a quiet dinner, or better yet, a quiet winter afternoon.  The sound quality is excellent, and the balance is just what it should be.  Lloyd Webber’s cello is undoubtedly the star of the show; but the other musical elements are not left to merely linger in the background as uninvited guests.  The more I listen to this recording, the more I want to listen to it.  I recommend that you purchase this recording as a gift for someone you love; but be sure to buy two copies – you won’t want to give it away after you hear it.

Tracklist: Star Of The County Down /Lady D’Arbanville, Oblivion, Marble Halls, Prelude In E Minor, In Haven (Capri), Chant Hindou, Trees, L’Heure Exquise, Kashmiri Love Song, Songbird (Koyal), Sicilienne, Hushabye Mountain, Music when soft voices die, Serenade, The Lea Rig, African Crib Carol, In trutina, A Gift Of A Thistle, To A Wild Rose, Unexpected Song.

— Ann Stahmer
 

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