Julian Lloyd Webber heads for Portsmouth Guildhall

Cellist Julian Lloyd Webber.
Cellist Julian Lloyd Webber.

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William Lloyd Webber’s main claim to fame today may be as father to theatre maestro Andrew and cello-playing Julian, but Julian is seeking to redress the balance.

He will bring his prized 1690 Stradivarius to Portsmouth Guildhall next week to give a recital including a brief, evocative piece by his late father called In The Half Light.

‘My father loved Rachmaninov’s music and there are similarities between them in melodic gift and harmonic piquancy,’ Julian says. This little piece is very typical of the kind of thing my father wrote, warm and melodic but with harmonic twists.

‘A friend of mine once described him as a combination between Enid Blyton and Stephen King – everything seems calm, then he will stab you with a chord. This piece suggests someone sitting in front of the fire, looking back over his life. I think it’s good.’

Appropriately Julian will end his Guildhall recital on Thursday, when he will be partnered by award-winning young pianist Rebeca Omordia, with the ’wonderfully dramatic’ Sonata in C by Rachmaninov himself.

‘It’s a huge piece,’ he says. ‘I have played it with Rebeca before and she is really, really good. She’ll take risks, really going for it. It will be spontaneous and that’s what I like. It was written in the same year as his second piano concerto whose success overshadowed it and is itself really a concerto.’

Another major work is the Sonata by Delius, ‘another terrific piece which should be better-known’, but the programme also includes more familiar items such as The Swan by Saint-Saens and Faure’s Elegie – and the dazzling Scherzo Pizzicato from Benjamin Britten’s Sonata written for Rostropovich.

‘It was the first work Britten had written for cello and he got completely drunk before first playing it.’

Julian has another musical passion - chairing the In Harmony project based on Venezuela’s famous Il Sistema. It uses classical music as a way of enhancing academic achievement in inner-city schools – most strikingly in Liverpool, he says.

‘It has brought communities together and the coalition government has been persuaded to continue with it because previously low-achieving state schools have been transformed, as Ofsted says. It isn’t just a dream but achieves results.’

Julian Lloyd Webber’s recital is tonight at 7.30pm.

Tickets: £10 to £20 from Portsmouth Guildhall on (023) 9282 4355 or go to portsmouthguildhall.org.uk.