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Every day we post 10 new Classical CD and DVD reviews. A free weekly summary is available by e-mail. MusicWeb is not a subscription site. To keep it free please purchase discs through our links.

  Classical Editor Rob Barnett    



George LLOYD (1913-1998)
Cello Concerto (1997)
The Serf - Orchestral Suite No. 1 (1938, 1997)
Anthony Ross (cello)
Albany SO/David Alan Miller
rec 15 Jan 2000 (suite); 22 Apr 2001 (concerto), Troy Savings Bank Music Hall, Troy, New York, USA DDD
ALBANY TROY 458 [67.24]


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The later symphonies of George Lloyd have always rung somewhat hollow to me. The manner of the great works (symphonies 4-8) is there but the exultant spark is absent or at the very least gutters and flickers. I found similar problems (possibly mine) with the piano concertos.

The works on this disc are from different ends of his career and they are prime Lloyd. The Cello Concerto, despite being a late work, recaptures his quintessential and captivating flow of ideas and treatment unembarrassed by anachronism. The playing is, I think, all that the composer might have wished though the Albany's violins can sound a mite glassy (as at 2.03 tr3). This is a concerto that stands in the proud line represented by the Dvořák, the Elgar and the Finzi.

The Concerto is in one movement though blessedly banded on this disc in seven sections: 1. violante, doloroso (smacks of the style of Kodaly's solo cello sonata with some lovely tremulous pianissimi); 2. Vivo (Elgar and some ineffably romantic strokes as at 4.30); 3. Adagio (very Sibelian/Tchaikovskian and close to the joie de vivre of Lloyd's chef d'oeuvre, his Sixth Symphony); 4. Andante (elegiac, yet more Sibelian string writing, Elgarian); 5. Vivo (bright eager woodwind skip and skim around the cello's swallow-tailed flight line - some supple, velour-toned string writing and playing); 6. Moderato; 7. Largo (no conventional high jinks but an ineluctably sincere farewell, sounding a little like the slow movement from the Moeran Symphony and instantly memorable for the hollow drumbeat that tolls arhythmically through the slow descent into silence and darkness - an ave atque vale that confounds all need for flourishes and fireworks). The sepulchral beat of the drum recalls the valedictory drum-line in the epilogue of Bax's Sixth Symphony. That last movement is extremely impressive and affecting. When the muted din around Lloyd has subsided I am sure that this work will be counted amongst the strongest of his output. It is without a doubt the best of his concertos.

This is a lovingly balanced, imagined and performed elegiac work. It has only a momentary grip on vivacity, joy and excitement. The fact that it ends with a moderato and then a largo says much for its reflective, and I must say irresistible, downbeat.

The Serf, is one of Lloyd's three operas; the others being Iernin and John Socman. It is the work of a man of 25, his second opera (the first being Iernin) premiered at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden in 1938.

The movements are: 1. Woodlands (evocative of a cathedral of trees, sacerdotal in mood); 2. Sigrid's Fear (tension, a Verdian breadth and fall to the melody; a touch of Rota's Romeo and Juliet long before Rota, of course, and even a warming, slightly sorrowing breath from Miaskovsky); 3. Love Duet (a Baxian ochre-tone sets the scene over which develops an emotional dialogue catching half-lights and reflections from the Moeran Symphony, from Howard Hanson's love music in the Merry Mount opera, and from Vaughan Williams' Sir John in Love); 4. Deciso (something of the vivo sections of the Sixth Symphony); 5. Sicily (tragic and reflective); 6. Fate (a potently oppressive eldritch Baxian atmosphere); 7. Outrage (a gripping on-the-edge-of-seat scherzo with a shadow of the Dies Irae putting in an appearance; it being 1938 we might be forgiven for catching an augury of Poland and a glimpse or two of Guernica).

The plot of The Serf has about it something of Sibelius's Kullervo. This too has the hapless lovers, Sigrid and Cerdic, discovering that they are brother and sister. The destructive Robert de Fulke covets Sigrid for his own and when the two take to the road he pursues them but is killed. The two lovers take their own divergent paths - tragically bereft. Their resigned farewells resound stoically through a tawny twilight. The Bible-black violence of the closing bars can be seen as predictive of the horrors and callousness Lloyd was to suffer in the then impending world war.

This is a hybrid multi-channel SACD disc also playable on standard CD players. I can only comment on the conventional CD performance which sounded excellent to me.

The notes are good though light on hard facts such as precise dates and details of premieres and in the case of the opera denying us details of the original cast, choir etc. A nice touch though was to remind us that copies of the libretto of The Serf were available from Albany Records (UK) at Box 12, Warton, Carnforth, Lancs LA5 9PD. 01524 735873. fax 01524 736448.

Lloyd on resoundingly confident form. Place it alongside symphonies 5, 7 and 8.

Rob Barnett

 


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