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THE STRAD June 1995

Jullian Lloyd Webber (cello) Jane Atkins (viola) John Lill (piano)
John Graham Hall (tenor) Andrew West (piano)
Purcell Room, London

Composer William Lloyd Webber had the misfortune to he born perhaps 40 years too late in 1914. Influenced by Rachmaninov and Franck, his music was sufficiently at odds with the prevailing mood of the mid-2Oth century for him to keep his scores private and to abandon all composition for two decades until shortly before his death in 1982. However, London’s Purcell Room was packed for a lunchtime concert of his piano and chamber music (9 February).

The most substantial work was the three-movement Viola Sonatina, receiving its first public performance. Given the paucity of repertoire for the instrument, violists should seize on it with delight. The first movement is full of half-finished, questioning phrases, while the second has a gorgeous melody exploiting the distinctive tone quality of the viola and the third is a controlled yet jovial expression of good humour with a wide-ranging but always assured tonality. Jane Atkins' enjoyment of the music was infectious, if you could ignore her distracting body movements.

Two pieces for cello and piano further demonstrated the composer’s melodic gift. In the Half-Light has long, singing lines with an improvisational feel, and is very much a duet of equal instruments; Nocturne gives a clue to the composer’s own instrument: the music has an organist’s sense of dignity and restrained power. Sorrowful but not despondent, it is perhaps closest to Elgar’s ‘Nimrod’ in spirit. Julian Lloyd Webber, the composer’s younger son, obviously feels particularly close to these works; his performance with pianist John Lill, an old friend of the Lloyd Webber family, was deeply felt.

Joanna Pieters