The Strad Issue: Feburary 2012
Description: Two notable anniversaries celebrated in a delectable collection of song arrangements
Musicians: Julian Lloyd Webber, Jiaxin Cheng (cello) John Lenehan (piano)
Composer: Delius/Ireland

To coincide with the 150th anniversary of the birth of Frederick Delius and the 50th of the death of John Ireland, Julian Lloyd Webber has specially created cello arrangements of a number of their songs. From the rather sad beauty of Delius’s Through the Long Years to the dark mood of Ireland’s The Three Ravens, they all lend themselves ideally to the instrument.

Familiar among the 21 tracks will be Ireland’s Sea Fever and Delius’s Love’s Philosophy, together with two pieces known in other formats – Delius’s Serenade from the opera Hassan and Ireland’s The Holy Boy. Most of the other songs of are seldom heard today, and of the three receiving their first recordings, Delius’s reflective Birds in the High Hall Garden is particularly noteworthy.

Lloyd Webber has championed Delius’s Cello Concerto, and John Lenehan has revealed his affection for Ireland in recordings of his complete piano music. Add the two players together and you have ideal collaborators. Using a portamento like a singing voice, Lloyd Webber’s cello playing is silky smooth and the intonation immaculate, a pleasure doubled by Jiaxin Cheng’s contribution in two Ireland pieces arranged for cello duo and piano. This is not a disc of high contrasts, but one of great beauty with a recorded sound to match.