A PLAYFUL CONCERTO OF LLOYD WEBBER'S LUSH SCORE,
This review is from: Lloyd Webber: Phantasia - Woman In White Suite (Audio CD)
As most people know by now, Andrew Lloyd Webber's "The Phantom of the Opera" is a musical phenomenon. Since it premiered in October 1986 in London and a year after that on Broadway, it became one of the best and most beloved musicals of all time. The gothic love story of Gaston Leroux's novel proved for ALW to be a perfect match of the artist and the subject matter. Add to that the beautiful and sweeping melodies ALW composed, the monumental staging directed by the master of musical direction Hal Prince, the excellent original cast of Michael Crawford and Sarah Brightman and it's no wonder the Phantom quickly conquered the West End, Broadway (it is currently still playing on both locations as a second longest-running musical in history), after which it has been presented in theaters all over the world, thus becoming the most successful musical in terms of financial gain and the original cast album sold in more than 25 million copies.
When ALW was working on the score in the second part of the 80-is, he envisaged a concert version for the orchestra, violin and cello, in which the cello would take the role of the Phantom and the violin of Christine Daae, his love interest. It took almost 20 years for ALW and his cellist brother Julian to actually make it happen and this recording is the final result. It contains two orchestral suits: the selections from the Phantom score, called Phantasia and the other is from ALW's latest West End musical "The Woman in White", which is about to be transferred to Broadway in November this year.
Julian Lloyd Webber joined forces in Phantasia with one of the world's leading classical artists, the violinist Sarah Chang. This is an altogether interesting recording, since it allows one to emerge deep into ALW's rich musical themes and leitmotivs of the Phantom score, with no singing voices to accompany the melodies. This means the music is free to speak for itself, becoming even more memorable and full than it does on the available cast recordings of the show, showing above all just how outstanding ALW as a composer can be. Craftily orchestrated and delivered, the recording demonstrates the perfect match with the original story. Both Sarah Chang and Julian Lloyd Webber spotlessly perform their solos, building with the big London orchestra the musical themes of love, passion and darkness. The two of them sound at their best when they are joined in full force by the rest of the orchestra. Overall, Phantasia proves that a good score can be varied in a dozen of subtle musical styles, still sounding fresh, new and appealing.
Speaking generally, I have some reservations for the score of "The Woman in White". This ALW's latest musical tried to match the Phantom both with its story and the musical form. The result on the original cast recording was not so satisfying, mainly because the score sounded similar to ALW's earlier shows, most notably "Aspects of Love", with slight echoes from "Cats" and "The Beautiful Game". Except for a few leitmotivs, it sounded too plain and dull, as did the cast, with the exception of Michael Crawford's supporting role. Still, "The Woman in White suite", as the second track of this CD is called, has his merits. The selected themes have been orchestrated in the same good manner as did Phantasia and they are played by the big orchestra alone. Again, music is primary here: no voices to distract your attention and even though this score is musically inferior to the Phantom, it does has some pretty moments, especially the spooky prologue when the orchestra takes the Woman in White leitmotiv in full blast. This concert version of the score is actually better, since it won't dull you while listening, like the original cast recording, giving you the main musical themes at the same time. As much as it is played impeccable by the orchestra, it doesn't bring much novelty to long-time fans of ALW's work.
The latter group will surly love this nicely made edition, which comes with a booklet containing some promotional notes, but those enjoying a well orchestrated symphonic tunes should also not be disappointed. The music of Andrew Lloyd Webber is the art of its own kind and this recording is another proof of that fact.