I can't help feeling that a packed house at Malvern was slightly short-changed on Friday.
This concert from the English Chamber Orchestra began late and seemed to finish early, there were no programme-booklets available (just a biography-biased A4 sheet), and the big draw soloist, Julian Lloyd Webber, came and went without leaving much of an impact.
Part of the problem was the choice of Tchaikovsky's Rococo Variations for Cello and Orchestra, one of the composer's least emotionally engaging works and therefore offering nothing to get the teeth into.
Lloyd Webber's technical proficiency ensured an accomplished, efficient reading, delivered with an admirable combination of panache and delicacy, and he shared an attentive collaboration with the ECO - but as a musical experience this rated none too high.
More rewarding was a Tchaikovsky rarity, the tiny Nocturne, its sad "walking" main melody delivered with affecting simplicity by Lloyd Webber, the orchestral accompaniment eloquently coloured.
Elgar's Introduction and Allegro was a well-chosen tribute to the composer's beloved Malvern Hills. Despite occasional overemphasis forcing intonation awry, the mutual alertness and communication of the ECO strings secured a wellreceived account (applause rashly beginning during the long final chord), while conductor Joseph Wolfe appeared to be giving us a big production number on the podium.
Spectacular, perhaps crowd- pleasing gestures tended to distract the attention, and he should really get someone to film him from the back or lengthen his jacket.
Things were better for Mozart's delicious Symphony no.33. Though there was not much penetration below the surface of this lovely music, Wolfe did allow Mozart to make his own effect through these expert players, and the evening ended better than it had begun.