THE BLUE Flash Music Trust was given a welcome boost by the visit of their patron Julian Lloyd Webber to Horsham’s Capitol Theatre this month.
Meeting representatives from the Trust before the 70th Anniversary Concert staged by the Horsham Music Circle, Mr Lloyd Webber said that he had been delighted to become patron of the Trust as he had played in the Old Town Hall back in the early seventies soon after he had graduated from the Royal College of Music.
Julian Lloyd Webber had also performed to a similarly packed theatre at the Horsham Music Circle’s 50th anniversary concert in 1992. Many members of the audience were back again and just before the performance, one couple explained how they had accompanied their daughter to the front row twenty years ago saying “she gazed in awe throughout the concert and following that night, immediately went on to play the cello.”
Tonight’s concert was no exception, from the opening captivating melody of Bach’s Adagio in G to some of the frenzied bars of Rachmaninov at the end.
The second and third pieces were Scherzetto and Elegy for Cello and Piano by Frank Bridge.
Julian explained that Bridge had never played the cello himself but quipped that he seemed to understand the instrument completely.
In fact, Bridge had taught Benjamin Britten, the composer of the next piece ‘Scherzo-Pizzicato from Sonata in C’.
The first half of the performance was given a fitting climax with ‘Sonata for Cello and Piano in one movement’ by Delius.
Julian had previously further amused the audience by saying that cellists in orchestras didn’t usually like playing Delius because he normally ends quietly.
However, this particular piece ended fortissimo, so cellists could take comfort in the fact that they would not be overshadowed by a stark and rapturous applause for the conductor!
On this occasion at the Capitol however, we had a simple set up; the very talented piano accompaniment of Pam Chowhan, and a man perfectly at one with his instrument, plus the extremely rare Stradivarius cello known at the ‘Barjansky’ Strad (1690).
Not even a music stand to obscure the view!
The audience departed for the interval buzzing with questions.
“How does he remember all that music, let alone play it like that?” was a common observation.
One member joked with me: “He will be a truly great cello player once he learns to read music!”
“How do two totally acoustic performers fill a packed theatre with sound like that?” was another well discussed puzzle.
In fact, Julian later went on to explain that he bought the Stradivarius for a tidy sum in order that he could cut through the orchestra.
Back from the interval Julian paid tribute to his father William Lloyd Webber with ‘Nocturne’.
His father had composed many melodious pieces after the war, but this was an even earlier composition from 1941.
And then to the grand finale of Rachmaninov’s ‘Cello Sonata in G minor’, by far the biggest piece on the programme.
Again the warmth and humour of the artist further captivated the audience when he quipped that cello players didn’t normally like playing the piece because it gave the piano accompanist a chance to shine.
However, he comforted himself that for every note he played on the cello, the piano had to play a hundred!
And shine they both did.
Wonderful exchanges and stunning harmonies between the two instruments penetrated every soul in the auditorium.
The pace and complexity of the second and fourth movements particularly left one awestruck.
However, somehow, you sensed that you could still ‘feel’ every single note.
And so to the end.
All that passion and skillful musicianship was amply rewarded by an appreciative Horsham audience with four curtain calls in all.
The encore was Oblivion by Astor Piazzolla.
Again, emotion purred from every string, with the instrument speaking to you like a voice.
Such is the sound of a cello in the hands of a master.
Article contributed by Martin Jeremiah
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