The other Lloyd Webber: Andrew's father William has always been overshadowed by his son's musical blockbusters

Ahead of a concert celebrating his centenary year, his youngest son, Julian, tells Jessica Duchen about the sacrifices their father made for his children

Filled as it is with melody, energy and heartfelt emotion, surely the music of Lloyd Webber needs to be heard more often? Ah, but this is not Andrew Lloyd Webber. It is his father, William, whose centenary falls this year.

Well known as a musical academic, professor at the Royal College of Music and, from 1964, director of the London College of Music, William Lloyd Webber (1914-1982) nevertheless left his true vocation, composition, largely unfulfilled. His younger son, the cellist Julian Lloyd Webber, describes him as not so much embittered as disappointed and extremely private. "He would often see celebrated conductor colleagues at the Royal College," he says, "but told none of them he was a composer."

His musical style is exceptionally direct: "He had a way of putting a lot into a very short space of time," Julian suggests. His output includes church music, chamber works, songs, a Serenade for Strings and more – yet despite the music's audible appeal, most remains virtually unknown, perhaps because he wrote no flagship symphony or concerto.

Over the years, Julian has unearthed, published and recorded some key works; but the father remains far overshadowed by his elder son's blockbuster musicals. It is almost as if he sacrificed his own creativity for his children.

William Lloyd Webber's father was a London plumber who happened to adore organ music. By the age of 14, William was giving organ recitals himself. He won a scholarship to the Royal College of Music, where he studied composition with Ralph Vaughan Williams, and gradually built a career as organist and composer until the Second World War intervened.

So, too, did marriage, family and musical zeitgeist. In 1942, William married Jean Hermione Johnstone, a violinist whom he had met at the Royal College. Andrew and Julian were born respectively in 1948 and 1951. The postwar years were a tough time to be a struggling musician with a young family.

"I think he simply had to make some money," says Julian, "and composition wasn't doing it for him." Andrew has been quoted as saying he believed his father would have liked to write film scores, but was discouraged by his own father who thought this an inferior path.

Indeed, William's music proved out of step with its era. The 12-tone serialist system had rendered tonal, romantic music such as his old-fashioned and often critically reviled. Together with his unwillingness to champion his own works, this proved destructive. In the year Andrew was born, William wrote his most substantial (10 minutes long) orchestral work, Aurora, depicting the sensual goddess of dawn. "He sent it to the conductor Sir Malcolm Sargent," Julian recounts, "but received no reply.

This kind of thing happens all the time, of course – but he assumed it meant Sargent didn't like it and he never sent it to anybody else, ever again. Malcolm Arnold, whose music was similarly out of step, went on composing despite horrible reviews. He kept at it. My father didn't."

Julian paints a portrait of a quiet man who knew much but spoke little and remained emotionally distant. "He was strangely remote," he says. "He would come to my concerts and Andrew's shows, but he wouldn't say much afterwards. That kept us on our toes. There was always a sense that things had to be excellent, or else were a complete waste of time."

Andrew has said that he felt "closer to my grandmother than I was to either of my parents" and that while their mother enthusiastically encouraged gifted youngsters from outside the family, "there were moments when we felt that nobody was really interested in us".

Keys to success: Andrew and Julian Lloyd Webber (Rex Features) Keys to success: Andrew and Julian Lloyd Webber (Rex Features)
There was no doubting their father's musical perceptiveness, though. "Once Andrew and I as teenagers were listening to the Beach Boys, who were new and innovative at the time, and we heard an amazing chord in 'When I Grow Up to Be a Man'. We were at the piano trying to work out what it was, but we just couldn't get it. We went to our father as last resort, as he wasn't a big pop fan, and found him mixing cocktails. He used to make unbelievably potent cocktails – sometimes people would ask for water, he'd pour it over the ice he'd used to mix the drinks, and they'd go reeling out. Anyway, he went to the piano, played the chord immediately, and told us exactly what it was."

Andrew's music soon took a direction of its own. "I think our father was amazingly impressed by Andrew," says Julian, "especially as Jesus Christ Superstar was on a big scale and Andrew was very young when he wrote it." Preparing Cats in 1981, Julian recalls: "Andrew felt there was something missing and he came up with 'Memory' literally a few days before opening night. He came round to play it to us all. Our father said simply: 'It sounds like a million dollars.'"

Yet in other respects father and son could be musically related. "His music certainly made an impact on Andrew," says Julian. "I can hear it most clearly in Love Never Dies – the lush romanticism of it." Andrew wrote his Requiem (1985) in memory of his father.

Sure enough, William's romanticism might be the key to his compositional impulse. The violinist Tasmin Little has recorded his Benedictus, a wedding gift from William to Jean: "It is so heartfelt that it's hard to imagine a greater musical love-gift, except for Wagner's Siegfried Idyll," she says.

And in an unexpected postscript, he returned to composing in 1979 to produce an utterly gorgeous choral work, the Missa Sanctae Mariae Magdalenae. "The stimulus was that he met a girl named Justine Bax," says Julian. "And I think he fell in love."

Julian heads a concert of his father's works at St Martin-in-the-Fields on the centenary itself, and festivals are planning treats, including Barnes this spring. Yet still he dreams of hearing a fine performance of Aurora. "Sometimes I'd see him at 2am, listening in tears to its one then-existing recording," he says. "I kept out of the way."

A Celebration of William Lloyd Webber, St Martin-in-the-Fields, London WC1 (020 7766 1100) 11 March

Arts and Entertainment
Innocent victim: Oli, a 13-year-old from Cornwall, featured in ‘Kids in Crisis?’
TV review
News
Northern exposure: social housing in Edinburgh, where Hassiba now works in a takeaway
books An Algerian scientist adjusts to life working in a kebab shop
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
Terminator Genisys: Arnie remains doggedly true to his word as the man who said 'I'll be back', returning once more to protect Sarah Connor in a new instalment

 

film review
Arts and Entertainment
Relocation, relocation: Zawe Ashton travels the pathway to Northampton
Arts and Entertainment
BBC Three was launched a little over five years ago with the slogan: “Three, is a magic number, yes it is.”

BBC Trust agrees to axe channel from TV in favour of digital move

TV
Arts and Entertainment
British actor Idris Elba is also a DJ and rapper who played Ibiza last summer

film
Arts and Entertainment

books
Arts and Entertainment
Armie Hammer in the new film of ‘The Lone Ranger’

TV
Arts and Entertainment

festivals
Arts and Entertainment

Final Top Gear review

TV
Arts and Entertainment

music
Arts and Entertainment
Pete Doherty and Carl Barat perform at Glastonbury 2015

music
Arts and Entertainment
Lionel Richie performs live on the Pyramid stage during the third day of Glastonbury Festival

music
Arts and Entertainment
Buying a stairway to Hubbard: the Scientology centre in Los Angeles
film review Chilling inside views on a secretive church
Arts and Entertainment
Jason Williamson, left, and Andrew Fearn of Sleaford Mods
musicYou are nobody in public life until you have been soundly insulted by Sleaford Mods
Arts and Entertainment
Natalie Dew (Jess) in Bend It Like Beckham The Musical
theatreReview: Bend It Like Beckham hits back of the net on opening night
Arts and Entertainment
The young sea-faring Charles Darwin – seen here in an 1809 portrait – is to be portrayed as an Indiana Jones-style adventurer
film
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Isis in Syria: Influential tribal leaders hold secret talks with Western powers and Gulf states over possibility of mobilising against militants

    Tribal gathering

    Influential clans in Syria have held secret talks with Western powers and Gulf states over the possibility of mobilising against Isis. But they are determined not to be pitted against each other
    Gaza, a year on from Operation Protective Edge: A growing population and a compromised and depleted aquifer leaves water in scarce supply for Palestinians

    Gaza, a year on from Operation Protective Edge

    A growing population and a compromised and depleted aquifer leaves water in scarce supply for Palestinians
    Dozens of politicians, bureaucrats and businessmen linked to Indian bribery scandal die mysteriously

    Illnesses, car crashes and suicides

    Dozens of politicians, bureaucrats and businessmen linked to Indian bribery scandal die mysteriously
    Srebrenica 20 years after the genocide: Why the survivors need closure

    Bosnia's genocide, 20 years on

    No-one is admitting where the bodies are buried - literally and metaphorically
    How Comic-Con can make or break a movie: From Batman vs Superman to Star Wars: Episode VII

    Power of the geek Gods

    Each year at Comic-Con in San Diego, Hollywood bosses nervously present blockbusters to the hallowed crowd. It can make or break a movie
    What do strawberries and cream have to do with tennis?

    Perfect match

    What do strawberries and cream have to do with tennis?
    10 best trays

    Get carried away with 10 best trays

    Serve with ceremony on a tray chic carrier
    Wimbledon 2015: Team Murray firing on all cylinders for SW19 title assault

    Team Murray firing on all cylinders for title assault

    Coaches Amélie Mauresmo and Jonas Bjorkman aiming to make Scot Wimbledon champion again
    Wimbledon 2015: Nick Bollettieri - Vasek Pospisil must ignore tiredness and tell himself: I'm in the quarter-final, baby!

    Nick Bollettieri's Wimbledon Files

    Vasek Pospisil must ignore tiredness and tell himself: I'm in the quarter-final, baby!
    Ashes 2015: Angus Fraser's top 10 moments from previous series'

    Angus Fraser's top 10 Ashes moments

    He played in five series against Australia and covered more as a newspaper correspondent. From Waugh to Warne and Hick to Headley, here are his highlights
    Greece debt crisis: EU 'family' needs to forgive rather than punish an impoverished state

    EU 'family' needs to forgive rather than punish an impoverished state

    An outbreak of malaria in Greece four years ago helps us understand the crisis, says Robert Fisk
    Gaza, a year on from Operation Protective Edge: The traumatised kibbutz on Israel's front line, still recovering from last summer's war with Hamas

    Gaza, a year on from Operation Protective Edge

    The traumatised kibbutz on Israel's front line, still recovering from last summer's war with Hamas
    How to survive electrical storms: What are the chances of being hit by lightning?

    Heavy weather

    What are the chances of being hit by lightning?
    World Bodypainting Festival 2015: Bizarre and brilliant photos celebrate 'the body as art'

    World Bodypainting Festival 2015

    Bizarre and brilliant photos celebrate 'the body as art'
    alt-j: A private jet, a Mercury Prize and Latitude headliners

    Don't call us nerds

    Craig Mclean meets alt-j - the math-folk act who are flying high