Tuesday, 20 November 2018

Our doyen of the cello plays Haydn at Hexagon

IT could be said that Julian Lloyd Webber has had a chequered love life since he has been married four

IT could be said that Julian Lloyd Webber has had a chequered love life since he has been married four times. But the world-renowed cellist, who plays a one-night concert at the Hexagon next week, seems to be finally settled and incredibly content, at the age of 62, with his fourth wife, fellow cellist Jiaxin Cheng.

The couple, who have an 18-month-old daughter, Jasmine Orienta, have been recording two new CDs, and when the Standard caught up with him this week, they were busy rehearsing in their apartment in Kensington.

He said: “It is lovely to be able to work together, although we are both cellists, and we both want to get it right, so it can lead to arguments.

“We don’t really argue at all most of the time, but when it comes to music we do have a few disagreements. It’s a hard slog, and because we know each other so well we are probably more direct with one another.”

Together they have made a recording of song arrangements — 17 accompanied by piano, and four accompanied by harp — from a diverse range of classical composers from Montiverdi to Avro Part, which will be released later this year. The second CD, still in production, will be a collection of baroque music for two cellos.

It was not written in stone that Lloyd Webber, one of the UK’s most celebrated classical musicians, would take up the cello. Brought up in a musical family, his mother, Jean, tried to teach him piano at the age of four, but to no avail.

“My mother was a specialist in teaching young people piano, and she started to teach me — and failed,” he said. “I just didn’t get on with it. I asked if I could play a different instrument, and it turned out to be the cello. I had a little mini cello a tenth of the normal size and I just took to it.

“I suppose with the piano the hands are both working to make notes, whereas with the cello the right hand is bowing while the left hand is making the notes. It’s a kind of brain situation, probably.”

But despite the advantage of being the son of a composer, William Lloyd Webber, the brother of composer Andrew, and being surrounded by music from a young age, he insists that his natural talent has been supplemented by a lot of “hard graft”.

“Nobody is going to get anywhere just because they might have some talent,” he says. “You have to work at it. It’s a combination.”

It was only when he hit his teens that he decided he was going to make music his career.

He said: “It was when I saw the Estonian cellist Mstislav Rostropovich play, that’s what made me decide I wanted to do it seriously. I was 13 at the time. Up until that point I was working away at the cello but I just played for fun.

“A lot of things happened around that time that made me decide I wanted to do it professionally, including changing to a really good teacher. That just shows how important teaching can be.”

He trained at the Royal College of Music, and then completed his education with Pierre Fournier in Geneva, and made his début at the Queen Elizabeth Hall in London at the age of 21. Needless to say, by this time he had swapped the mini cello for a full-size one, and now plays the Barjansky Stradivarius, which dates from 1690.

Lloyd Webber has been described as the “doyen” of British cellists, and has collaborated with a host of big names — from the late great Yehudi Menuhin to Stephane Grappelli and Elton John.

His latest big adventure was to perform live with the London Symphony Orchestra at the closing ceremony of the 2012 Olympics, the only classical number in the three-hour spectacular.

He said: “It was extraordinary. It’s such a big place and I was put on top of this model of the Albert Hall, which was very high up and quite scary. There was so much going on around me and the crowd seemed so far away, although I could still hear them. It was an amazing night. It was a great honour to be involved — an unrepeatable experience.”

He last played the Hexagon in 2007 as part of the venue’s 30th anniversary gala concert. Next Tuesday, he is back with the European Union Chamber Orchestra to perform Haydn’s Cello Concerto in C Major.

He said: “It’s a terrific piece. A lot of the popular works written for the cello are quite lyrical and romantic, works by Elgar and Schumann, for example. A lot of cello music can be quite sad. But this piece by Haydn is a bright and breezy kind of piece, especially the last movement which is very virtuosic and happy.

“Haydn had a good sense of humour, and that’s one of the things that comes across in this concerto.” He will also play a short piece by one of his favourite composers, John Ireland, The Holy Boy, as a “kind of encore”, and the programme also includes Grieg’s Holberg Suite and Mozart’s Symphony No 40 In G Minor.

lTickets for the concert, on Tuesday, January 29 are avilable from the box office on 0118 960 6060 or go to www.readingarts.com

Tim Grandage gave up the trappings of success to help homeless children in India. JON RYAN, who will introduce his lecture at the Kenton, tells his story.

IT is as unlikely a story as any in the remarkable city of Kolkata. The city where Mother Theresa worked and died has up to three million people living there who do not appear on any register.

Among them are thousands of young children, many of whom are orphans, have fled poverty elsewhere or are escaping abusive lives. Howrah and Sealdah railway stations became their home with nightly battles dodging officials trying to move them on.

Into this madcap, teeming, noisy city came Tim Grandage. A young banker with HSBC, his life would never be the same after arriving in Calcutta — nor would the lives of hundreds of children.

On February 12 Tim is giving a talk — A Future With Hope — as part of the Kenton lectures series about his work with these homeless children. He is a moving and inspirational speaker whose enthusiasm remains as strong now as it did in 1987.

Tim was working for HSBC when he first went to Kolkata (or Calcutta as it was called then). One night, he returned to his car and found a group of street children hanging about. They explained that they had been looking after it for him, but despite his first suspicions, they wanted no money. Out of this meeting a friendship grew. He determined to help the children — not in a sentimental, mawkish way, but to give them an education, values and the chance to make their own way in life. He went back to his bank headquarters in Hong Kong and commuted back and forth for a while to see the children.

His first base was his flat where he and Erica — now his wife — looked after more than a dozen children. He gave up banking and disarmingly says: “I was a hopeless banker in any case.”

Now, 25 years on, Future Hope, the charity he founded, has a school with more than 200 pupils and seven homes scattered around the city where more than 160 children and young people live. Some of the original boys are still there, now working for Future Hope. Tim’s fervent belief is that once a child is taken in, the Future Hope family will do everything to help give them a happy childhood, provide education and encourage their individual talents. If a child has a problem, there is always the safety net of Future Hope to go to for help, but ultimately as young adults they should have a foundation on which they can build to become useful, self-supporting members of society and break out of the cycle of despair and poverty.

Tim is looking forward to coming to Henley. He said: “I know the town and have visited when we had boys at The Oratory or played rugby against Shiplake College. I am very much looking forward to being at the Kenton.”

To find out more about Tim’s Kenton lecture on Tuesday, February 12 and book tickets go to www.kentontheatre.co.uk or call the box office on (01491) 575698.

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