Review of ‘An Evening of Julian Lloyd Webber and Friends’ at Cambridge Corn Exchange on Wednesday 30th October 2013

Julian Lloyd Webber’s penultimate concert as Cambridge Corn Exchange’s Artist in Residence was highly successful. The three performers, all well-renowned musicians of the era, played with exquisite technical and musical expertise. There was no flamboyant gesture, delicate whisper or rhythmic complexity that they could not master with ease.

The programme was well designed with much variety and included works by Beethoven, Weber, Chopin, Prokofiev, William Lloyd Webber, Fauré and Brahms.  

Julian’s highly expressive, sonorous technique certainly won the day. This was especially evident in the Fauré. Emma Johnson, well-known since winning the BBC Young Musician of the Year in 1984, produced beautiful sounds from her clarinet. Even the highest notes had that special rich tone that only the best clarinet players can create. John Lill (piano) demonstrated a keen understanding of the effectiveness of subtle changes in touch while effortlessly mastering amazing feats of virtuosic strength and embellishment.

 The three performers worked very well together, synchronising wide-ranging dynamics perfectly, first demonstrated by Beethoven’s ‘Trio no. 4 in B flat, Op 11’. The second movement was charm itself, while in the third their huge talent showed us glimpses of Beethoven’s humour that is rarely seen.

‘Grand Duo Concertant in E flat, op 48’ by Weber played by Emma and John, moved up the complexity a notch. One of the highlights of the evening was the sheer beauty and phenomenal control of the extremely soft, gentle melody in the second movement.  

John opened the second part of the concert with a wonderful performance of ‘Nocturne in C major op 48 no.1’ by Chopin which featured delicious timing. Every note was expressed carefully and purposefully.  John followed with a most challenging ‘Toccata in D Minor op. 11’ by Prokofiev.  There was no doubt that this was a real ‘toccata’ and the rapid complex mass of sound in John’s hands was always faultless and clearly delineated.

Julian’s appeal is his down-to-earth homeliness and his performance of two works by his father, William Lloyd Webber were a pleasant interlude with many moments of poignancy and nostalgia.

The final work by Brahms ‘Trio in A minor, op. 114’, brought this delightful evening to a powerful and fulfilled close.

Julian will feature next at the Corn Exchange (www.cornex.co.uk, tel: 01223 357851.) on 22nd May 2014 at 7.30 pm with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra. The programme includes Elgar’s Cello Concerto.

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