Interview: Acclaimed cellist Julian stresses importance of musical education

Julian Lloyd Webber
Julian Lloyd Webber
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When Julian Lloyd Webber takes to the stage at The Apex, the acclaimed cellist will prove there is more to him than just being the younger brother of theatre giant Andrew Lloyd Webber.

Hailed by critics as the ‘doyen of British cellists’, the 62-year-old will revisit one of the greatest achievements of his career performing his Brit award winning interpretation of the deeply moving Elgar Concerto at the Bury St Edmunds venue on May 26.

What does he enjoy about the piece?

“Everytime you play it there seems to be something new,” he says. “There’s so much inside that work and it’s a piece that reacts extraordinarily to different circumstances. It can be very spontaneous.”

He will join the Suffolk Philharmonic Orchestra for the event to celebrate their first full year of concerts.

As one fledgling groups marks its beginnings, Julian reflects on his - growing up in a musical family led by his composer and organist father William.
He was captivated by the alluring sounds and shape of the cello, which he began playing aged about five.

“It was something I really grew into and came from within me. The more I did it the more I wanted to get better.

“When I was 13 I went through a fantastic teacher which shows how important your teacher is and I just decided that’s what I wanted to do.

“It always seemed to me a very natural looking instrument and you can see how the notes are made.”

He argues that you can express a breadth of emotions on the cello which is a ‘soundtrack to human points’.

After winning a scholarship to the Royal College of Music, he completed his studies in Geneva with the renowned cellist Pierre Fournier.

Since then he has premiered more than 50 works, won numerous accolades and inspired new compositions from composers.

Education remains one of his burning passions and as chairman of the In Harmony Sistema England programme, Julian has endeavoured to promote personal and community development in some of England’s most deprived areas through orchestral based learning and musical experiences.

Why does he think musical education is important for young people?

“It gives them a completely different aspect on life. The thing that really appealed to me about this is that we’re going to the poorer areas of the country.

“It’s giving the children a whole new outlook on life. We’re going to primary school children at the moment and there have been incredible changes to their work and whole motivation. That’s what this programme is about - it’s more of a social than a music education project.”

With commercial top 40 radio dominated by manufactured acts, it could be easy to deem classical music a niche appeal.

Pointing to the success of Classic FM though, Julian argues there is still a mainstream appetite for the genre - one which television has failed to recognise.

“They’re almost scared of it. We know there’s a great audience for classical music and I wish we saw more especially on the kinds of programmes that young people watch.”

Following the Apex gig he will be performing concerts in China this summer.

“I’m still really enjoying it. I love that feeling of communicating music to an audience. It doesn’t matter where you are in the world - music has no language barrier.”

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