Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Julian Lloyd Webber (and others) @ Cadogan Hall

When I went home for Christmas last year, I was rudely awakened from a jet-lagged nap by my mom furiously pounding away at the piano.  This was not unusual - if it wasn't her incompetent talented young students butchering finessing a recital piece, then she was rehearsing the accompaniment to some difficult flute or cello solo for another teacher's year-end recital.  It was truly, never-ending.
On this particular occasion, I was drawn to the beautiful melody in the accompaniment.  Still half asleep, I asked her what it was and she replied with some frustration, "This stupid Faure Elegy for cello!"  (okay, some frustration was an understatement - I think she hated the piece).  With an accompaniment that pretty, who needs to hear the solo?  So I Googled the Elegy and found a YouTube video of Julian Lloyd Webber playing it back in the day.  Oh. My. God.  Not only was it the most beautiful piece I've heard in a long time, but JLW was insanely attractive back then.

Imagine my excitement, then, when my neighbor Gordon kindly slipped the Cadogan Hall season catalogue under my door and I happened upon a listing for JLW performing at the Two Moors Festival's 10th Anniversary Concert.  Be still my heart.  After recovering from the initial shock, I realized that my mom's favorite, Schubert's Trout Quintet, was also being performed that evening.  Needless to say, I booked in a hurry.

I'd never been to Cadogan Hall before and was quite happy to find it easily situated within 2 minutes walking distance from Sloane Square tube (my mom and I killed some time at Peter Jones before, which I was sure she'd like since it's every senior citizen's dream department store come true and best for retail snobs).  The hall itself is lovely and perfect for smaller, more intimate performances - a perfect contrast to the massive space of the Royal Festival Hall, which we'd be visiting later in the week for a performance of the Rachmaninov Piano Concerto #4.

Pianist Leon McCawley began the program performing two pieces by Schubert (the famous 'Papillons' and 'Fruhlingsnacht'), then returned to the stage to accompany JLW (yes, I'm just going to call him that from now on), who introduced each piece and spoke a little bit about its history.  I loved this casual characteristic of the performance, which I think put the audience at ease and isn't typically found in performances by musicians of JLW's caliber.  That he didn't feel too "above" his listeners to speak from the stage spoke volumes of his character and preserved the "festival" aspect of the concert.  Although we had fabulous third row seats, I would have preferred (had I doled out the extra ££) to be in the middle of the hall, as we were seated a bit lower than the performers, thus affecting the sound we received from the instruments.  Schubert's Trout Quintet was also performed with fantastic aplomb (though I had to concentrate on not letting my eyes fall on the over-eager violist, lest I dissolve into fits of giggles, which had already happened once) and I was pleased to catch my mom smiling during a sneaked sideways glance.

And now, for your own enjoyment, the famed YouTube clip which led me to JLW and the Faure Elegy - tell me you don't fall in love with him and the piece after watching this:


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