Gramophone Magazine September 1996

GRAMOPHONE September 1996

William Lloyd Webber

Sonatina for Viola and Piano Nocturne. Two Pieces for Cello and Piano Badinage de Noël. Song Without Words. Scherzo in G minor. Arabesque. Presto for Perseus. Romantic Evening. Explanation. Five Songs. Missa Sanctae Mariae Magdalenae.

John Graham-Hall. Philip Dukes (va); Julian Lloyd Webber (vc); Sophiia Rahman, John Lill, ‘Philip Ledger (pfs); Ian Watson (org); Hickox Singers / Richard Hickox.

In September 1987, Malcolm Macdonald gave a warm welcome to ASV’s debut collection devoted to the music of William Lloyd Webber (1914-82), a distinguished organ scholar, respected teacher, and father of you know who.

This latest issue adds three new items to that compilation (namely the Sonatina for viola and piano. Nocturne for cello and piano and Explanation for solo piano), yet inexplicably drops in the process the two arias for tenor and organ (“The King of love” and “Thou art the King”).ASV’s useful notes also mention, amongst other things, a Flute Sonatina and an early Fantasy Trio.

I can report that, of the three pieces entirely new to the catalogue, the fluent Sonatina struck me as the most pleasing. Composed in 1952 for the violist John Yewe Dyer, its three pithy, beautifully crafted movements contain much resourceful, attractively idiomatic writing. The wistful Nocturne for cello and piano derives from Lloyd Webber’s 1948 oratorio St Francis of Assisi, while the (undated) piano miniature entitled Explanation possesses a similar, innocent charm (it certainly fits very happily into the sequence of piano pieces here).

The five songs are really very pretty indeed (in his initial review MM rightly drew comparisons with Roger Quilter), as, indeed, are the two other cello and piano offerings, “In the half-light” (written in 1951 for a cellist friend Harvey Phillips – and who was himself later to teach Lloyd Webber’s son, Julian, at the RCM) and the “Air varie” (based on César Franck’s Tantum ergo).

That just leaves the immensely assured, five-movement Missa Sanctae Mariae Magdalenae, a substantial late work dating from 1979. Suffice to say, performances and recordings are beyond reproach.