The English pianist Julia Cload was one of the finest interpreters of Bach and Haydn of her generation. Her Bach recordings, in particular, were often compared in their intensity to those of Glenn Gould.
As well as her great musicality, those who knew her will remember her delightfully witty, humorous side, which often came out in her playing. A Gramophone review of her Haydn keyboard sonatas commented: “Her eager, spontaneous sounding engagement with the music delights one with its humour, and her feeling for the imaginative range of colour, along with her strong sense of cumulative growth, is a thing of untrammelled wit and brio.”
Julia was born into a musical family. Her father, John, was a viola player and founder member of the London Philharmonic Orchestra. Her mother was a violinist and later a teacher. Julia first studied at the Royal College of Music in London. While still a student, she won the LPO concerto competition, following which she made her debut with the London Philharmonic in Beethoven’s third piano concerto, under Adrian Boult.
Julia went on to win a three-year scholarship to the Liszt Academy in Budapest, studying under Lajos Hernadi, himself a student of Bartok and Schnabel. She continued her studies with Maria Curcio and Hans Keller, soon making her much acclaimed Wigmore Hall debut, which led to her playing with most of the major British orchestras, including the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra and the Halle.
At the invitation of Bernard Haitink, she played a Mozart concerto under his baton. The great Ernest Bradbury wrote: “Julia Cload is a born Mozartian, summing up Mozart’s achievements with her poise and fluency, forethought and poetic imagination.” With John Pritchard, she played Beethoven’s fourth piano concerto, and with Vilem Tausky, Tchaikovsky’s first piano concerto.
She became a regular recitalist at London’s major concert halls, and recorded often for the BBC, as well as being invited to play all over the world. One of the highlights of her career was playing Bach’s Goldberg Variations at the 2001 Besancon Festival. Indeed, her recording for Meridian Records of the Goldberg Variations won critical raves, with Musical Opinion writing: “One had thought that only Glenn Gould, because he was both eccentric and a genius, was acceptable playing Bach on the piano. But, believe me, Julia Cload is equally acceptable. I’m uncertain if we should salute her as a genius, though I don’t rule it out, but she’s not eccentric. The vision is all her own, growing organically, never imposed by any theories.”
Julia’s commitment to Haydn took her to both Vienna and Eisenstadt, playing at the Haydn festivals there, after which Piano magazine wrote: “Of all the pianists here… the greatest find is Julia Cload. Her playing was the most haunting, the most eloquent and the most lastingly illuminating.”
The great Haydn authority HC Robbins Landon wrote: “Haydn’s piano sonatas take on a new dimension when they are played by Julia Cload, whose intense musicality and forceful personality are evident throughout these extraordinary recordings. She has now become one of our leading interpreters of Haydn.”
Some years ago, Julia and her husband, the actor Nicholas Hawtrey, moved to France, where their home was a welcome haven to friends from all over the world. She will be remembered as a wonderful musician, whose playing illuminated the music she performed, and as a generous and kind person by all who knew her.
Julia Cload, who was born on October 6, 1946, died on July 31, aged 65. She is survived by Nicholas and her sister Jackie.