Friday, July 04, 2008


at the Civic


A very successful blend of chat and cello – the first he's done, he assured us.

The leading UK cellist of his generation fielded the usual questions about his instrument, his practice routine and his favourite composer. He also spoke passionately about his involvement with the British version of El Sistema, the Venezuelan music programme for children of the streets.

With Pam Chowhan at the piano, he played a varied selection, all from memory, each with a brief introduction. His shimmering pianissimo was heard first in a Bach Adagio, and again in Fauré's Elegie, which also featured superb piano playing and an impressive sustained note. The pizzicato from Britten's Sonata in C was technically stunning, as was Falla's Ritual Fire Dance.

The two performers worked very well together, listening and reacting all the time. The major work of the evening was Debussy's Sonata, written during the Great War. There were three tracks from Unexpected Songs, reminding us how close the cello's sound is to the human voice, and including a moving arrangement of the parlour ballad Trees.

We heard Julian's own Song for Baba, his father's In the Half Light, and, as a well deserved encore, the last of his brother's Variations.

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