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Julian Lloyd Webber

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Julian Lloyd Webber is a world-renowned cellist (that means he's famous all over the world). He won a scholarship to the Royal College of Music when he was just sixteen and after that he studied in Geneva with Pierre Fournier. He has made many outstanding recordings. Composers including Malcolm Arnold, Philip Glass, James MacMillan, Michael Nyman and Joaquin Rodrigo have written works especially for him. He's even won a Brit Award!

We were very excited to meet Julian Lloyd Webber in London and we are very happy that he answered some questions especially for littlecellist.com.

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That cello looks a little small for you!
Sure is! It's a quarter-size cello that was suddenly thrust into my hands moments before the photo was taken at the launch of In Harmony Lambeth!

Why do you think children should be taught about classical music?
Because classical music has so much to offer! Don't forget we're talking about six or seven centuries' worth of music written in every possible style - and a lot of it is marvellous!

You are representing In Harmony which gives children, who wouldn't otherwise be able to afford lessons, the opportunity to learn an orchestral instrument. Why do you think all children should learn an instrument?
Music is for everyone!

How did you come to play the cello?
My mother tried to start me on the piano. Understandable, as she specialized in teaching the piano to young children. The trouble was I was no good! Then she took me to a children's concert at the Festival Hall and I spotted the cello in the orchestra - it looked a lot more interesting than the piano, so I asked my mum if I could play one of those. 

Your brother is Andrew Lloyd Webber (who has written many musicals including Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, Cats, Evita, Starlight Express and the Phantom of the Opera). Did you make music together as children?
Andrew was always interested in the theatre and, when we were very young, we used to have a toy theatre at home. It had a revolving stage made from an old record turntable - not too high tech, I'm afraid! - but we had great fun and used to enjoy making 'Productions' together!

Does Andrew Lloyd Webber appreciate the cello?
Very much. Andrew often used to come to cello concerts with me when we were teenagers. And, of course, he wrote his Paganini Variations for me - which remains the only piece he has written without words!

We've read that you are a supporter of Leyton Orient Football Club. Are there any similarities between football and playing the cello?
I think there are huge comparisons between music and sport. Playing music together involves the greatest teamwork and you need to practise every day - just like a sportsman!

How long did you practise for as a child?
Probably not long enough! I didn't really take the cello seriously until I was about thirteen.

Do you have any tips for practising?
Try to enjoy it - even scales! There is a certain weird satisfaction when you manage to play them right!

Do you get nervous before you perform?
Yes! And I think it would be odd if you went on the platform with no nerves at all. The beauty of live performance is that it's totally unpredictable. Throughout history even the greatest performers have suffered from nerves - when Casals made his debut*in Vienna he was so nervous he dropped his bow. He said, "With panic I felt it slip from my fingers. I tried desperately to regain control but the bow shot from my grasp and sailed into the audience landing several rows behind!"

*Debut means the first time you play in a particular concert hall

When did you first discover that you loved classical music?
I always enjoyed hearing music of all different kinds. But I do remember my grandmother giving me two tremendous recordings of cello concertos when I was about nine. She had been recommended them by a little old gentleman who ran a tiny record store around the corner from where we lived. They were the Elgar Cello Concerto played by Paul Tortelier and the Saint-SaŽns and Lalo concertos played by Pierre Fournier.

You were later taught by Pierre Fournier. What was he like as a person and as a teacher?
I loved Fournier! He was a lovely man and a great teacher. He tried to bring the 'individual' out of his students - which was exactly the kind of teacher I responded to!

Which other cellists influenced you?
Rostropovich was definitely my biggest cello influence. For him the cello was 'a hero in our times' - I just loved his approach to the instrument.

What has been the most memorable moment of your career so far?
I've been immensely fortunate to experience so many extraordinary 'moments' in the concert hall. I will never forget recording the Dvorak Concerto in Prague wtih the Czech Philharmonic and playing and recording the Elgar Concerto with Yehudi Menhuin conducting. But if I had to pick one unforgettable moment, it would be performing the Elgar at the final 'changeover' concert in Hong Kong.*I will never forget the atmosphere in the hall that night.

*The 'changeover' happened in July 1997 when Hong Kong was handed back from the United Kingdom to China.

What is the best thing about playing the cello?
I love the cello as an instrument. Its range of pitch is closer than any other to the human voice and you can express every possible emotion through it.

Could you tell us something about your cello?
My cello is the 'Barjansky' Stradivarius named after the Russian virtuoso*Alexandre Barjanksy to whom it once belonged. Barjanksy was the dedicatee**of Bloch's Schelomo and also gave the first performance of Delius's Cello Concerto - a wonderful work which is much underrated.

*Virtuoso means someone who has outstanding technical skill at playing an instrument.
**Dedicatee means the person to whom the composer dedicated the music. So in this case, Bloch dedicated Schelomo to Barjanksy.

What is your favourite piece of music for the cello?
Impossible to say! But I do have a special affection for the Elgar and Shostakovich concertos.

I once presented a bouquet to you after you played in a concert. I remember that I was very cross about being made to wear a smocked dress!
Oh dear! I would have been cross too if I'd been made to wear a smocked dress - although I'm not sure what that is!

Do you have any message for children learning the cello?
Enjoy playing this beautiful instrument! Experiment with getting lots of different sounds from it. And try to experience different cellists playing 'live'.


If you follow these links you can see and hear Julian Lloyd Webber in action!

Julian Lloyd Webber plays Variations by Andrew Lloyd Webber

Julian Lloyd Webber plays Music of the Night by Andrew Lloyd Webber

Julian Lloyd Webber plays Gavotte by David Popper

Julian Lloyd Webber plays The Swan from The Carnival of the Animals by Camille Saint-SaŽns