J. Lloyd Webber's No Longer Sad—He Found the Cash to Buy His Strad

updated 08/20/1984 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 08/20/1984 AT 01:00 AM EDT

When Julian Lloyd Webber realized that his final bid for a Stradivarius cello at a Sotheby's auction last year was successful, he was overcome with emotions. Mixed emotions. On the one hand Lloyd Webber, 33, one of Britain's top young cellists, was on the verge of obtaining a rare instrument with the sort of rich, resonant tones he longed for. On the other hand, he faced a daunting obstacle: how, as a workaday cellist, to come up quickly with the $303,726 he had bid for his dream.

At first bankers didn't take him seriously when he asked for a loan—and not because of the nature of his request. Julian is the younger brother of composer Andrew Lloyd Webber, 36, who has raked in millions for the scores of Cats, Evita, Jesus Christ Superstar and other musicals. Though desperate for cash, Julian understood the bankers' bewilderment: "After all," he says, "if someone named McCartney had come to me for a loan..."

He's a bit less understanding about Andrew's turning down someone named Lloyd Webber. "He was getting divorced from his first wife and said he couldn't lend me that amount because he didn't have it." The refusal, he says, "didn't come as a surprise."

Perfect harmony seems to be a rarity for the brothers. "There's nothing I could tell him that he doesn't know," says Julian, "and nothing he could tell me that I don't know." They've collaborated only once, when Andrew lost a soccer bet and had to compose a piece for Julian. The pop-classical result, Variations, suggests that more togetherness might make sense—it rose to No. 2 on the British charts in 1978. But the cutting of the disc was punctuated by cutting remarks. It was "quite stormy," Julian says. "Andrew quite rightly criticized the way I was playing—that it wasn't free enough. And I countered by saying 'rubbish,' which I wouldn't say to any other composer."

Julian ultimately got his Strad by mortgaging his $65,000 Guadagnini cello and everything else he and his wife, Celia, own. A former cello student who helped support him through lean years by working as a secretary, she may just have helped him purchase a rival. "Because it plays so well when I'm right, it's an unforgiving instrument that shows up flaws when I'm wrong," he laments. "It expects to be treated like an expensive woman."

And he obliges, sleeping with it by his bed and buying it a seat when he flies. It will undoubtedly be prominent in his first book, Travels With My Cello, due out this fall. But it may not be his first-string love forever. "I'm still interested in trying other cellos," he says. "Every player is searching for a sound that in his mind he wants to make."

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