Julian Lloyd Webber

The Romantic Cello

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With only three additional pieces to distinguish it from ASV's 1993 disc of the same name, the 2004 budget edition of The Romantic Cello does not offer enough new material to warrant a second purchase, and its mediocre sound quality makes it an unwise investment in any case. Compiled for the most part from analog recordings made in 1978, only tracks 5, 9, and 12 are digital, and the overall sound is muffled and difficult to enjoy. Beyond the faulty engineering, the program is standard recital fare, with only Frank Bridge's Elegy, William Lloyd Webber's Nocturne, and John Ireland's The Holy Boy standing out as novel if innocuous selections. Julian Lloyd Webber's playing is pleasant but bland, as if he is merely going through his paces. Technical challenges are well within his grasp, as shown in Popper's tricky Elfentanz and Chopin's virtuosic Introduction and Polonaise brillante, but Lloyd Webber seems emotionally uninvested and, consequently, uninteresting. This detachment is even more noticeable in his routine readings of Saint-Saëns' The Swan, Delius' Romance, the Andante from Rachmaninov's Cello Sonata, and Elgar's Salut d'amour, which are flat and uninspired. So foggy sound, fusty programming, and facile playing combine to push this lackluster CD ever closer to the cut-out bin, where it belongs.

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