|Studio album by|
|Released||22 January 1978|
The Lloyd Webber brothers were always very close but their two different careers (a rock musical composer and a classical cellist) meant that a collaboration seemed unlikely. It was not until Julian beat his brother in a bet on a Leyton Orient football match that Andrew was forced to write his cello work.
As his subject, Andrew chose the theme of Paganini's 24th caprice and added 23 variations for cello and rock band. The work premiered at the 1977 Sydmonton Festival with rock band Colosseum II, featuring Gary Moore, Jon Hiseman and Don Airey being joined by Barbara Thompson (sax, flute), Rod Argent (piano, synthesizer, keyboards) and Julian Lloyd Webber (cello). It was subsequently rearranged and recorded in 1978. It reached Number 2 on the UK album charts.
The work was used in musical Song and Dance (1982) and David Cullen made an arrangement of the work for cello and orchestra. The opening and closing variations have been rewritten for cello and piano, the latter of which Julian often uses as an encore, due to its amusing glissando down to Bottom A (forcing a mid piece retune) to conclude.
The opening theme is used as the theme to The South Bank Show (1978-2010) and "Variation 5" became "Unexpected Song" with lyrics by Don Black. "Variation 18" is an instrumental version of the title song from the first Rice and Webber musical, The Likes of Us (2005). Also, the UK's children's program, The Book Tower (hosted by Doctor Who actor, Tom Baker) adopted a section of "Variation 19" for its theme tune.
In Lloyd Webber's adaptation of the film School of Rock (2003) to the West End, Dewey Finn and Ned Schneebly play Guitar Hero to the audience on an imaginary TV screen, and the Variations album is played. In addition, the chorus of the song Stick it to the Man is based on a note sequence from Variation 14.