Guardian 1978

St Johns Concert - Brahms E minor Sonata

FEW CELLISTS of whatever age or celebrity produce such consistently true and opulent sounds as Julian Lloyd Webber. Only recently it was a misery to find a crude amplification system getting in the way of his natural sound when at the Festival Hall he played his brotherís lively set of Variations, but here at St Johnís Smith Square, in the kindest of acoustics for the cello, we heard from him a display of velvet textures in every sonic colour imaginable.

The first half brought purposefulness in the Brahms E minor Cello sonata, Opus 38, but then with Simon Nicholls as his agile but discreet piano partner he went on to a set of romantic pieces, some inconsequential, some langorous.

The one frustration was that Rachmaninovís Great Cello Sonata was represented only by the central slow movement, and that is a work which I suspect suits Lloyd-Webberís ripely romantic style even more than the Brahms.

Above all Lloyd Webber is a cellist with an ability to persuade, and so it was not only in warhorse pieces like Saint-Saensís ever-buoyant Swan but also in Mendelssohnís late Song Without Words for cello and the stunning Elfin Dance of David Popper, which perfectly suited the vein of naughtiness which regularly leavens the playing of a potentially major artist.

Edward Greenfield