Julian Lloyd Webber

Evening Songs

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Instrumental arrangements of art songs often seem to strike at the balance of music and text that's at the heart of any good song, and are generally best enjoyed in small doses. This release by British cellist Julian Lloyd Webber, however, shows every sign of being a labor of love, and it's an exception to the rule. The collection of 21 songs by Delius and the closely related (at least in the song realm) John Ireland includes some unknown melodic gems, such as the early "Birds in the High Hall Garden" of Delius, which inspired the whole project on Webber's part. Webber did most of the arrangements himself, and they're nicely calibrated to the wondrous sounds of his 1690 Stravidarius. The presence of pianist John Lenehan, an Ireland specialist, contributes to the whole effect, as does the inclusion of Webber's wife, cellist Jiaxin Cheng, on a couple of tracks. The engineering, at the acoustically very fine Wyastone Leys estate in England's Monmouthshire region, is unimpeachable. What it all adds up to is the elusive feeling that you're not listening to transcriptions at all. This is a valuable addition to the cello-and-piano literature (many of these pieces would be ideal singly or in small groups for student recitals), and taken as a whole it's a luxuriant hour of melody.

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