'From the moment I left college in 1972, I knew that eventually I would have to get a good instrument,' he says. '(So) I put everything I had aside. Absolutely everything. I was saving towards the day when I knew I would find a better cello.
'Nevertheless, when it came to buying the cello, it was way over anything I could afford, despite having saved everything that I possibly could. Well the cello was pounds 175,000; (it was) a lot of money, a lot of money, though by instrument prices today, it seemed to have been incredibly cheap. I mean, that instrument today would be valued at well over pounds 500,000. Possibly more. Rostropovich's Strad has been valued at a million and a half. I got this for pounds 175,000; very cheap. (But) it seemed astronomical. Especially as I didn't have it.'
His blue eyes suddenly narrow. It's a tiny movement, and easy enough to miss under the bushy black eyebrows that lie like wrinkled caterpillars across his forehead. 'In the end I borrowed money, a lot of money, from the bank. That's how I got it. I just somehow managed to get that sum of money.'
'Didn't you ask your brother?'
'I might have done.' The eyes narrow again. This time the movement is unmistakeable.
'I don't understand what you mean.'
'Yeah, well. I did ask him. Umm. He was just divorcing Sarah Hugill at the time, and he wasn't inclined to lend me any money.'
'How did you feel about that?'
'I leave that to your imagination.'
Twelve years have passed since the brothers had
that conversation. Although Julian Lloyd Webber eventually
raised the money, this is the first time he has publicly acknowledged that in his hour of need he turned to his brother - now one of the 50 richest people in Britain - and was turned away. The story Julian usually tells is that he financed the purchase of the cello himself, and that he is delighted to be its sole owner - and no more.
Without the camouflage of formal evening dress to shield him, Julian Lloyd Webber appears more vulnerable than on the concert stage, and there is something about this confession that begs a lot of questions about the brothers, about how they grew up and where they are now, about money and fame, and spreads in Hello], and about what it's like to be the only sibling of the richest and most famous composer alive today.
A LITTLE earlier I had been to see Andrew. When he is at his country home, Andrew Lloyd Webber includes reporters in the family lunch. In London, he receives them on the roof-top terrace of his offices in Eaton Mews South. Today we're on the terrace. He wears a pink shirt, and pale gabardine trousers.
His trousers are new, but if truth be told they're too outdated really to be called trousers. Slacks is a better word - slung low on narrow hips, and wider at the bottom than at the top. It is late morning, and his body has the mottled pinkiness of one who's just bathed - scrubbed cheeks, and pale putty-soft
fingers that are absolutely spotless. I was there to hear about the newest Lloyd Webber musical, Sunset Boulevard, that opens at the Adelphi Theatre on 12 July.
Starring Patti Lupone and directed by Trevor Nunn, Sunset will be the first musical re-make of Billy Wilder's classic actually to make it on to the stage. Lloyd Webber has been thinking of it for years, but the project has never got off the ground.
'It really was only after I finished Aspects (of Love, his last musical) that I thought maybe we'd have a look at it again, and then I saw a way to do it,' he says. If his explanation is deadpan, I put it down to the fact that I'm just the latest reporter to be shown on to the Belgravia terrace. Try as he might to hide this - and he does try - Lloyd Webber's answers have an assembly- line sameness that tell you he's been asked these questions before. No, Sunset lyricist Don Black is not the new Tim Rice in my life; you can't ever replace anyone. Yes, the hardest bit of Sunset to stage was the car chase. 'Err, The people who are designing the whole thing are quite confident that it's going to work. And I don't see any reason at the moment to doubt (them),' he adds smoothly.
Lloyd Webber must certainly have known by then of the huge technical glitch that would put back the opening of Sunset for a fortnight and force him to rejig not one, but two royal charity performances, but he was giving nothing away. For the composer is a real old pro when it comes to publicising his shows; he's had plenty of practice.
At 46, he has written and staged 11 musicals, starting with Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, the first show he co-wrote with lyricist Tim Rice. Today, he has five shows on in London and two in New York. His musicals go out like ripples around the world; from Nairobi to Nauru, at virtually any hour of the day or night, there is a curtain going up on an Andrew Lloyd Webber musical.
They have made him a very prosperous man. He has a private jet, homes in several places, a Mercedes with tinted windows and a chauffeur called Jan. He has a title and when he invites Baroness Thatcher to dinner, she accepts. He has a huge and renowned collection of Victorian paintings, which he has amassed with obsessive excitement, and he has a pounds 10.12m Canaletto. Although he says he is too well known to be able - or even permitted, for security reasons - to do what he wants, when he wants, life seems quite assured.
The new Lady Lloyd Webber, Madeleine Gurdon, is a helpmate not a star, and their second baby is due next month. (Lloyd Webber has two older children from his first marriage to Sarah Hugill, though none with his second wife, Sarah Brightman - known as Sarah Two.) Moreover, the sweetheart deal that saw Lloyd Webber sell a third of his newly privatised Really Useful Group to PolyGram in the summer of 1991 looks set to work out just as he'd hoped.
Under the terms of the contract, PolyGram will eventually gain control of RUG, but it will happen slowly. Their first down- payment of pounds 68m will be topped up next year by at least another pounds 10m; more if profits are higher than expected. Lloyd Webber's timing cannot be faulted; City analysts agree that if he were selling today he would certainly get 35 per cent less than he did. '(The) PolyGram (deal) was the best idea we've had.' he says.
RUG earned pounds 22m last year, most of it in copyright fees from old songs. Just one private family company, Escaway, netted profits of pounds 7m in 1990, making him not just rich, but very rich. Life should, by now, be simple. But somehow, there is an unease about Andrew Lloyd Webber, a twitchiness that, for all that success, never quite goes away. Watch him fidgeting on television, watch his eyes dart back and forth never fixing on anything. Is this a man as calm and relaxed in real life as he appears to be on his Belgravia terrace, or even in Hello]?
UNTIL 1972, when he bought Sydmonton Court, his Victorian country estate next to Watership Down in Berkshire, Andrew Lloyd Webber had always lived in the same three square miles of South Kensington. His parents, Billy and Jean, married during World War II and moved in with her mother to a large top- floor flat in Harrington Road.
Jean was a piano teacher, who visited her pupils on a bicycle. She is a determined and stoical figure, who's had her share of pain. Just before the war, Alistair, her favourite 16-year-old brother, was drowned in an accident. And more than 50 years later, she still describes this as 'the worst thing that's ever happened to me.'
Billy Lloyd Webber was the son of a plumber, and had been a child of rare musical talent. He was a gentle man, an organist
with beetle brows, who taught theory and composition at the Royal College of Music. Billy also composed romantic music he never showed anyone. 'Apart from two cello pieces, I hadn't heard one note of it until he died,' says Julian Lloyd Webber. Only late at night, when he'd drunk a little too much, Julian remembers, would Billy shut himself away and play his private recordings and weep.
Billy Lloyd Webber was an unhappy man who drank a great deal as he got older and who never came to terms with a sense that his life had somehow been a failure. 'I think he almost despised himself because he hadn't got Andrew's drive,' says his widow, Jean Lloyd Webber, today. 'He used to get very upset when people came up to him - as they frequently did - and said, 'You must be so proud of your sons.' Although he was very proud of them and wouldn't hear a word against them from anyone else, at the same time, this remark, which seemed to me to be fairly harmless, drove him almost mad. They managed to infer that he hadn't done anything but his sons had.'
'I think (my father) was afraid of being subjected to scrutiny,' Julian adds. 'He could not have withstood the criticism. And, of course, he paid the price for that because he was thoroughly miserable.'
Jean Lloyd Webber agrees. 'If the critics had've torn him to pieces, it would have devastated him, finished him off completely. He'd never have stood up to that, and just got on with it, and said, 'You're a lot of idiots, and I'm not going to take any notice.' He couldn't do that.'
Billy and Jean had already been married six years when Andrew was born. First there was the war, and then an early miscarriage. Andrew was born in 1948 and Julian three years later. Andrew was a difficult baby. He slept badly, and cried a lot. 'He screamed at night to get attention,' his mother says. 'We were living in a flat and we had to be rather careful because of the neighbours. We couldn't have a baby carrying on (like that.)' To quieten him, Jean would play old Edmundo Ross records on the gramophone with the sound turned down.
Their home was always full of music. Jean had some of her pupils come to the Harrington Road flat. Then there was the gramophone, and Andrew playing first the violin and the French horn and then the piano, and Julian later the cello. 'Generally it was a chaotic household,' says Julian. 'Bohemian is not really the word. It was just totally chaotic.'
Both parents worked, and it was Jean's mother, Molly, who looked after the boys. 'I wasn't really close to either of my parents,' Andrew explains. 'I was much closer to my grandmother.' Molly ran the house, and made life easy for everyone, even when Andrew was at his most difficult.
As Julian recalls: 'My memory was of Andrew occasionally having real tantrums. If he couldn't get his way over something. He would wear people down, (and make) people give in. Anything for a quiet life really . . .
'My grandmother was the one who used to give in to Andrew all the time. Even when he was quite a lot older, he would say, 'Where are my socks? I can't find my socks.' And he'd start getting really agitated about it, because he'd have to start going out somewhere. And she would run around and try and find his socks, or put together a pair of socks. This went on till he was 18 or 19. I always felt, 'Come on, now. You don't have to follow him round like that. You don't have to do this.' He was quite used to getting his own way . . . (and) she was just a very helpful sort of lady. But, of course, it meant that we were spoilt.'
The tantrums, the anxieties, the obsessiveness and the agitation. All are still part of Andrew Lloyd Webber's personality. 'That's one of the secrets of his success,' says Julian. 'I mean he will have given this show so much time. A lot of composers will write their show and then leave it up to everyone else. Not Andrew. He'll be in there at every rehearsal, phoning up Trevor Nunn . . . That is his life for however long he's been working on the show.'
As a child, Andrew had a passion for ruined buildings and dreamt of becoming the Director of Ancient Monuments at the Ministry of Works. 'He was absolutely obsessed by these, and what he didn't know about them wasn't worth knowing,' says his mother. He badgered his parents to take the family on holiday to visit the ruined castle at Tintagel in Cornwall.
He was also a theatrical producer, and built his own theatre where he would put on shows he adapted or composed for himself. 'He was a perfectionist. Same as he is now,' recalls Julian, who was quickly forced into a theatrical apprenticeship. 'Everything had to be right. The programmes were all neatly typed out. And the cast lists. He'd play the music at the piano, and I would operate the cast of (toy) soldiers. And people would come and watch these extravanganzas.'
Andrew's drive for perfection may stem in part from a deep- seated need to prove himself in a family where ambition and a deep dissatisfaction existed side by side. To Jean, who taught gifted children every day, Andrew had no particularly special talent as a musician. 'He was very good at making up his own tunes,' is all she is prepared to say, even today. Andrew's own recollection is that his mother was keener he should study history (for which she felt he did have an aptitude) rather than music.
Proving himself to his mother became increasingly important, not least because Jean Lloyd Webber devoted so much of her energy to seeking out other people's talented children whom she would help and encourage. She was much praised for her work, but her constant search for gifted children outside her home also affected her own sons. 'There were moments when we sort of felt there was nobody really interested in us,' says Andrew. 'It always (seemed) to be other people.'
Of these, none was more important than the pianist John Lill, who grew up in the East End of London and whom Julian met at the junior Royal College of Music where they both played percussion in the orchestra. Lill, now 49, is among the most talented musicians of his generation. He won the Tchaikovsky piano competition - the classical music world's equivalent of the Oscars - in 1970, when he was only 22.
It was Julian who first befriended Lill, but Jean soon also took him up. Lill gradually became part of the Lloyd Webber household, even leaving his own parents at one stage and moving into the Harrington Road flat because it was close to the Royal College of Music. In addition, he often went on holiday with the family.
Lill was four years older than Andrew, and far more of a rival, Julian feels, than Julian himself ever was. All Andrew will say is, 'He was like a sort of adopted elder brother.'
Neither Andrew nor Julian admits to being jealous of Jean's proteges. Nonetheless, each says the other brother was, and that John Lill was always the focus of the strongest feelings in both boys. Thus, says Andrew: 'Julian used to say 'I wish we could see more of Mummy', and 'why do we always have to have this other chap around?' There wasn't much I could say really, because I was only there during the school holidays . . . so it was a matter that didn't really touch me.' Julian, meanwhile, says: 'I think (Andrew's) always had a bit of a thing about John . . . I didn't see the problem that it appears to have created. Andrew said that when I was older. (But) I certainly wasn't aware of it at the time . . .'
If Andrew was jealous of John Lill, the constant presence of the pianist may also have been acted as a spur to him. At 18, only one term into his history scholarship at Magdalen, he left Oxford to try his hand writing music with Tim Rice, whom he'd met in London after Rice wrote to him offering his services as a lyricist. While his mother appears to have been deeply unhappy at the decision (something she denies now), it was Billy - who wanted recognition as a composer more than anything else - who urged Andrew to go ahead and give it a go. 'My father was much the more supportive,' he remembers.
For a while, Rice and Lloyd Webber did just that, though they wrote much more than they sold. The first breakthrough came when, through a friend, they were commissioned to write a short show for the boys choir of Colet Court, the junior school to St Paul's. In the bible they found the story of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat. But it was the New Testament which, three years later, in 1971, provided them with the material that would make their fortunes: Jesus Christ Superstar set Andrew Lloyd Webber on the road to super-wealth.
WHEN DESCRIBING Andrew Lloyd Webber, it's curious just how many people use the word 'obsessive'. His mother says it, his brother says it. His picture dealer, David Mason, who has been buying paintings for Lloyd Webber for the last three years, begins with: 'Andrew's an extremely emotional person.' And he ends up saying, 'Emotion and obsession are his two chief characteristics.' His biographer JonathanMantle offers a dictionary definition of the word on the frontispiece of his book.
That all these people make almost communal use of it is particularly curious because his music is anything but obsessive. The key principle of Andrew Lloyd Webber's musicals, whether written with Tim Rice (Joseph, Jesus Christ Superstar and Evita) or with Don Black (Tell Me on a Sunday, Song and Dance, Aspects of Love, Sunset Boulevard) is an easy sentimentality. Like them or hate them, hit songs such as 'I Don't Know How to Love Him,' 'Don't Cry For Me, Argentina' and 'Memory' are anything but hard work.
But friends, and ex-friends, all point to Lloyd Webber's obsessive perfectionism as one of key elements in his success. He regularly interferes so much in the production process of the shows that in one New York theatre the electricians rigged up a red switch specially for him. 'It was marked DDFT, for Doesn't Do a F. . .g Thing,' says one who has worked with him.
His first marriage, to Sarah Hugill, broke under the strain of it. When they were married, his rows with Sarah Brightman were the talk of the theatre world in London and New York. Ambitious for her own career, Brightman was unwilling to stop and be the helpmate he wanted his wife to be. Other people, who wouldn't do his bidding, saw their friendships fail. But nothing topped the rows that took place within RUG while it was a public company.
For Andrew Lloyd Webber, accustomed always to running his own show, the unceasing demands of City analysts and modern managers, nearly drove him mad. 'It was really not a happy time,' says one director who has since left.
The denouement came in June 1990, just as he was reputedly trying to borrow nearly pounds 100m to take the company private, when his long-time former PA and fellow director Biddy Hayward resigned from the business. Six RUG members walked out with her to set up another company, among them was RUG's then most famous employee, Prince Edward.
Lloyd Webber's ruthless streak showed through when he ordered Hayward off the premises by the end of the week. Hayward said: 'To be given four days to leave after 17 years means you must have done something absolutely horrendous. I felt that very hard. Any potential reputation I might have had would have been absolutely destroyed.' She says she will never work for him again.
Knowing the history of that episode, I ask Lloyd Webber for his version of what happened. For a moment, he listens to the birds twittering in the sunlight above the terrace, and then says: 'I had resigned from the company . . . I wanted to come back, and the board didn't want me back. It was a very difficult situation for those directors who had voted against me?'
'Was Biddy Hayward one of them?'
'I feel so, yes. Well, I don't know if she actually voted against me. She certainly was not the voice in favour of my coming back in, and I'm afraid that was that.'
IT'S CLEAR he doesn't want to go into details. Out in the sunshine on his Eaton Mews terrace, we have talked for nearly an hour: about Sunset - its story, staging, problems; about his business and its early troubles. He has answered all my queries patiently and politely. Now it was time to ask about his paintings, in particular Richard Dadd's magnificent Contradiction: Oberon and Titania, which he bought last year for pounds 1.7m (a record for a Dadd), bidding against the Tate and John Paul Getty Jnr, and brought back to Britain from Chicago.
With the first mention of his pictures there is a complete change of pace. His dark eyes dart about, and that big mouth opens wider as if to let the words out faster. He starts his sentences over and over, stumbling almost into a stutter. 'If you look at Contradiction with a magnifying glass, it's one of the most obsessive pictures ever painted . . . At first, I kept thinking what would I do if John Paul Getty got on the phone and said, I'd like the Dadd in exchange for Proserpine. Would I exchange it? I must have been out of my skull to have even thought that there was even a remote possibility that I could do that. Proserpine is a wonderful picture, but Rossetti did do eight versions of the thing] Now Contradiction is one of the most remarkable pictures I've ever seen, let alone actually owned. I have to have this because it's so important for the collection.'
Between those eyebrows a pink spot emerges. As he grows more excited, it becomes harder and harder to imagine that this impassioned creature, who spells 'collection' with a capital C, is the same man who composed: 'Potiphar was cool and so fine / But his wife would never toe the line / It's all there In Chapter Thirty-Nine . . . of Genesis.'
In Sydmonton Court, Lloyd Webber's country home, there is a grandness of colour and scale that could only be Victorian. According to a recent visitor, its walls are hung with pictures packed together, frame by frame, like gilt-edged crazy paving. Leighton and Rossetti in the dining-room; Millais, Brett, Tissot and Arthur Hughes in the drawing-room. And in the hall, 15 Burne-Joneses. 'It's a romantic's collection, a real collector's collection,' says Nicholas Serota, director of the Tate Gallery, while another visitor adds: 'Only in Isabella Stewart Gardiner's house in Boston (now a museum) have I ever seen such a density of pictures in a private home.'
And to those who have watched the collection grow, nothing has marked it out quite so much as the unique attachment Lloyd Webber has for each individual painting. 'I've got to know where the emotional centre of each picture is first,' he says. 'Otherwise, a picture doesn't work for me.'
'He tries not to give very much away,' says Sotheby's Victorian specialist Simon Taylor. 'But you can tell. He really does have a physical response to pictures. I remember when he first saw Leighton's Dante in Exile, he couldn't hold it back; it really got him. He just returned again and again. And Andrew doesn't even like Leighton.'
Over the last few years he has acquired some real masterpieces - the Dadd, the Leighton that Simon Taylor persuaded him to bid for, Arthur Hughes's magnificent, Silver and Gold, Millais' The Proscribed Royalist (one of the finest early pre- Raphaelite paintings in private hands), and Tissot's full-length portrait of his muse, the dark-haired sloe-eyed Mrs Kathleen Newton, entitled L'Orpheline. And then the painting that many consider to be the finest in the collection, John Brett's Val d'Aosta - a landscape of such depth and richness you feel you could step right into it and stride up the valley.
Andrew Lloyd Webber's passion for his Victorian paintings - and it really is a passion - goes back to his earliest years. And the single-minded determination with which he has sought out his pictures has its roots in the drive that has made him so successful, and his family so uncomfortable.
He began buying when Victorian pictures were unfashionable and easily available. Sometimes he just got lucky. When he bought the Palace Theatre he found a Charles Fairfax Murray in the basement, which he later sold for over pounds 200,000. At the core of the collection are his beloved pre-Raphaelites, those paintings whose dark and theatrical vision of the world is so close to his own. He has the luxury of time to look at pictures. He doesn't have to keep working on his shows, or investing, like a factory owner, in new plant. 'That's one his great advantages as a collector,' says Sotheby's Simon Taylor. 'He isn't a chief executive who has to spend every day on the job.'
It must indeed be tempting - when you're middle-aged and earn millions, and have a knighthood and even, occasionally, have Lady Thatcher over to dinner - to start planning a monument to posterity. What's obvious is that this is no longer the collection of an amateur enthusiast with enough money to indulge himself, but the beginnings of national institution.
Already, the establishment of the Sir Andrew Lloyd Webber Foundation, which owns two of the most important pictures - the Dadd and Canaletto's The Old Horse Guards - is a move towards that. And David Mason confirms that Lloyd Webber is planning to build a museum at Sydmonton, so that the pictures can be permanently on public view. 'Quite simply,' says Mason, 'we're trying to buy the very best. We're trying to make it the best museum of Victorian art in the country.'
As the collection grows, so does the possibility that the name Andrew Lloyd Webber - once a byword in easy listening - won't be remembered for his music at all. Emulating the lifestyle of the rich Victorian patrons who commissioned some of his favourite paintings, Sir Andrew Lloyd Webber (his name carved with pride on the plinth of a marble bust) is slowly slipping on the mantle of the Establishment grandee.
NONE OF this has changed Jean's life. 'My mother,' says Julian, 'has continued to carry on the same way she always did. She never spends anything on herself. Barely anything on food. She's never run a car . . . She is totally unaffected by it. Quite amazing. If anything, she is almost embarrassed. She's very proud. But embarrassed.'
As for Jean herself, she will only say: 'I feel it's his business really. I mean, if he can handle all the things which he gets with his money, like houses in France, and houses here, there and everywhere, and masses of land and things he's got in Berkshire, good luck to him. If he can cope with it, that's his affair. I'd be horrified if I found myself having to look after dozens of places in strange countries. I couldn't do it, because it's not me at all.'
Earlier, I had asked her to compare her sons' characters, and she answered unhesitatingly. 'Julian's a sort of watered down version of Andrew. Everything Andrew does is more extreme.'
For Julian Lloyd Webber, a professional musician competing in a far more exacting arena than Andrew and his theatre musicals, the struggle of living in his elder brother's shadow has never got easier. The brothers collaborated just once, when Andrew composed Variations on the A minor Caprice by Niccolo Paganini for Julian after losing a bet with his brother. Today, they are closer, though their busy schedules mean they meet only intermittently.
'I did that recording, finally, after a very long time,' says Julian. 'Because, you know, it's been difficult for me as his brother. I don't think it's made my life as a musician any easier at all. I think it's made it ten times harder . . . It has made people very envious of me. But if they were in my position for a year or so, I think that would soon disappear. All I want to do is to get on with my work as a cellist and musician. So I avoided - I actually avoided playing his music for a very long time. Till it got to the point where it was kind of almost embarrassing. People would ask me all the time why I didn't play anything. It's because I have my own life.
'. . . To me, it's actually utterly irrelevant. That's what I feel about the whole situation. He's in a very high-profile world. He has to be. You have to generate publicity for the shows . . . (But) I find it quite irritating; very irritating to be actually involved in a very different field of music, (and) to be constantly asked questions about Andrew. It's basically got nothing to do with what I do. So I actually blot it out to an amazing degree. It rolls over me. I'm very into my work and I love what I do. I think that people who are envious of me should realise that I could have been crushed by it if I had been less strong. Totally. Because it's something that I've lived with for 20 years.' -
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