Bury St Edmunds/Lowestoft: Julian Lloyd Webber shares Tale of Two Cellos

Julian and Jiaxin Lloyd Webber

Julian and Jiaxin Lloyd Webber - Credit: Archant

Behind every great man there’s a great woman. This certainly the case where Julian and Jiaxin Lloyd Webber’s A Tale Of Two Cellos album and tour was concerned.

Recording some song arrangements for cello and piano by Delius and Ireland, two of Julian’s favourite composers, they found two virtually unknown songs for two voices by the latter; one of which wasn’t even published.

“It gave me the idea ‘why don’t we try these on two cellos’. If I hadn’t been married to [fellow cellist] Jiaxin I don’t think that would ever have happened,” he says when I catch them on the way to a performance, the wind whistling through what sounds like an open car window.

“They worked really well so that gave us the idea to explore lots of other composers and see what we could come up with, see whether there were a lot of not so well known pieces that were really good out there that you just don’t hear nowadays; you rarely hear a concert with two vocalists now, at one time it was something really popular.”

This latest tour features new arrangements of work by some of the greatest composers across the classical spectrum from Vivaldi, Avro Pärt and Dvorak to Bach, Rachmaninov, Saint-Saëns and many more.

“We’ve mostly selected pieces which were originally for two voices, vocal duets. It’s very much that kind of feeling, that the instruments are like two voices,” says Julian.

To make the grade, pieces had to be able to stand on their own, to not need the words. The couple also needed to know they would work on the cello; there were quite a lot of pieces they liked but wouldn’t work for one reason or another.

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“There are certain things that happen in songs that sometimes don’t translate. There was a lot of trial and error, we were aiming to sound like one person playing although obviously you hear two instruments; we were trying to make it a very unified performance.”

Everything had to be gone through, their bowing, fingering... to present everything as one voice.

“That’s a huge amount of the work and a lot of preparation. We worked really closely on it together. All the hard work was done before we made the recording so we can sit back and enjoy it [the tour].”

It proved a very different, but interesting and exciting, process for the couple who had to compromise their individual styles to blend together. Stressful at the best of times, but when you’re married too...

“It can be difficult because we know each other so well; you tend to be ruder, more direct with each other than you would if it was someone you didn’t know so well,” he laughs. “At the end of it all, all you’re trying to do is get it as good as we can and that difficult part has gone now. Since then we’ve made another recording of Vivaldi all for two cellos; that was quite different and fun as well.

“I think on this recording it’s probably fair to say I was the boss because a lot of the pieces [were] in a style I’m very comfortable in and had played a lot before. When we made the second CD of Vivaldi I’d say it’s far more equal because Jiaxin is very comfortable with that style of music, has got a lot of ideas and [has] perhaps even played more of it than I have in the past. It’s who has the most to say about the pieces of music.”

Julian believes the concert, billed as a very intimate evening, will be a good introduction to classical music.

“We introduce all the pieces one by one, there’s no piece of music that’s particularly long. We’ve put together a very varied programme, it’s not just the CD there are other things as well. The idea is to make it fun, you want to have some fun with these concerts. It’s a slightly different concert experience, lots of interaction with the audience.

“It’s quite suitable for young children, I think it’s a good introduction for children, we aim to make it quite a family affair. I’m pleased when I see a lot of young faces in my concerts.”

A Tale Of Two Cellos featuring Julian and Jiaxin Lloyd Webber, with Pam Chowhan on piano, comes to Lowestoft’s Marina Theatre on March 2 and the apex, Bury St Edmunds, March 3.