Music review: Julian and Jiaxin Lloyd Webber - made for dancing

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 03 February, 2015, 6:53am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 03 February, 2015, 10:49am

Julian and Jiaxin Lloyd Webber

City Chamber Orchestra of HK

City Hall Concert Hall

Reviewed: January 31

If this concert had been a meal, I would have left the table still hungry. The pieces, except for one by Vivaldi, were a selection of slight English "rhapsodic miniatures" for string orchestra. The mood range was narrow, from pleasant to charming. Vivaldi was the spiciest composer on the programme.

The strings sounded delicious, with a characteristic mellow English sweetness, but after four or five pieces with similar harmony, tempo and soupy texture, the taste began to pall. Cellist Julian Lloyd Webber conducted fluidly without a baton, but I missed the precision that would have given the music character.

On the other hand, Lloyd Webber was clearly sharing music he knows well and loves, and this came through especially in music of his father William Lloyd Webber and Edward Elgar. Does anyone dance to live string orchestra any more? This concert would have made enchanting ballroom music.

Chanson de Nuit by Elgar brought out the warmth of the strings with plush violin melodies and rich inner voices. Another favourite was the Barcarolle of William Lloyd Webber. It had interesting wistful harmonies, a swaying rhythm and a fresh final chord, like a pink flower suddenly blooming on a green stem.

The Vivaldi Concerto for Two Cellos was performed by Artem Konstantinov, principal cello of the orchestra, and Julian Lloyd Webber's wife Jiaxin. The quick banter between the cellos was fun, and Vivaldi's inventive repetitions were beguiling. Yet the high register sounded uncomfortable.

Jiaxin (pictured with Julian) played with grace and accuracy, but her cello sound lacked urgency and distinction. Phrases did not build to telling climactic moments.

Howard Goodall's And the Bridge is Love, with strings, Juliana Beckel on harp, and solo cello played by Jiaxin , was too vague and delicate to convey its tragic bittersweet message.

A dramatic arc was hard to discern, and at what might have been climactic high notes, Ms Lloyd Webber was out of tune. There was a glimpse of a fine artistic personality in her beautiful ending notes.

The concert got a dose of energy from the last piece, Elgar's Introduction and Allegro, Op 47. More strings were added and they played with power. Quicker tempos were a welcome relief and a solo string quartet was nicely interwoven.

Concertmaster Amelia Chan in particular played with passion, acting as the vibrant soul of the ensemble.