CD Review – Andrew Lloyd Webber – Symphonic Suites

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CD REVIEW Andrew Lloyd Webber   Symphonic SuitesCD Review – Andrew Lloyd Webber – Symphonic Suites
The Andrew Lloyd Webber Orchestra/Simon Lee
Decca 3819953

Here at last is this new release of what for many of us is our kind of music performed by a full orchestra. It has been a while coming as it was announced at the end of August and the release date then put back two months. Nevertheless, well worth waiting for.

Set down in April 2021, but with Abbey Road not having a large enough studio to take 81 musicians social distancing, Lord Lloyd Webber suggested the stage at the newly refurbished Theatre Royal Drury Lane for the recording, and he considers the acoustic proved to be "really good for a big orchestra."

The album is made up of selections from three of his best-loved and longest running shows and among the memorable tunes we hear Requiem for Evita/Oh What a Circus, Don't Cry for Me Argentina ('Evita'); As If We Never Said Goodbye, With One Look ('Sunset Boulevard'), Music of the Night, and All I Ask of You ('Phantom of the Opera').

Apart from a video* of the 'Evita' movie – the last LW show for which Tim Rice wrote the words – I have not seen or heard any of the composer's other show productions**, so quite a few of the songs here are new to me. Disappointingly, the booklet fails to list titles. One of the standout tracks is Part 3 of 'Phantom', but I cannot tell you what it is called.

Lloyd Webber, like his Dutch namesake André Rieu, usually does all his own arrangements but here he enlists the help of Andrew Cottee, describing him as "a brilliant orchestrator". Cottee also assisted John Wilson in his reconstruction of lost numbers from MGM musicals.

All 21 items are very well played by the hand-picked band (I much prefer The Times referring to "virtuoso freelance musicians" rather than The Gramophone's "scratch orchestra") and the recording is splendiferous. Wielding the baton, as he has during the past 20-odd years for several of Lloyd Webber's soundtrack recordings and in the theatre for 'Phantom', 'Cats' and 'Ghosts', is that man-about-music Simon Lee.

If you really enjoy the album, you will be pleased to know that the marvellous melodist would like to give more of his shows the same treatment.

Playing time: 69’

* What's that, Grandad? !!
** I mentally walked out of the cinema during the disastrous 'Cats', which reputably lost the movie studio close to $71 million.

© Peter Burt 2021

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