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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 (1900-1998)
The Vigil of Venus (1977-1980)
Carolyn James (sop)
Thomas Booth (ten)
Orchestra and Chorus of Welsh National Opera/George Lloyd
rec Brangwyn Hall, Swansea, Nov 1990 DDD
DECCA The British Music Collection 473 437-2 [78.02]



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This series is valuable not only for itself but because it has also given Malcolm Southern the excuse to dust off recordings first made just over a decade ago for Decca's Argo label. In the same batch as this we also have Coleridge Taylor's Hiawatha trilogy and the Constant Lambert collection with the BBC Concert Orchestra - both recordings reanimated from Argo deletions.

George Lloyd's epic choral work fits onto a single CD to perfection. It was written in the sunlight of a new confidence borne of John Ogdon's support as well as the rising Manchester influence of Edward Downes and Peter Marchbanks. The Vigil came about within three years of the momentous evening broadcast of the Eighth Symphony. I still recall listening during that sweltering summer and retain the tape to this day. Lloyd was quickly embroiled in arrangements for BBC broadcasts, Lyrita recordings of symphonies 4, 5 and 8 and the first rumblings of support from Albany and Peter Kermani. At this point his fecundity of production accelerated although tragically his ideas began steadily to lose their oxygen. The Vigil of Venus caught Lloyd still with the power to delight. He celebrates the joys, amatory and celebratory, of the Northern spring felt from the perspective of a warm Mediterranean heart. The vocal writing is exultant and curvaceous. The brass passages are well communicated. There is a Puccinian exuberance to these crowded pages which at times looks out towards William Mathias’s contemporaneous This Worlde’s Joie. At other moments he picks up on Holstian mysticism, Handelian chortling and the skipping open air pleasures of Patrick Hadley’s The Hills. In the penultimate of nine separately tracked episodes the music seems to be some weirdly transformed tango supporting Straussian delights for the chorus. By the most unforgiving of standards (those established by himself in the mid-period symphonies) this work lacks indelibly memorable invention. However Lloyd can and does rise to full euphoric stretch in the swinging vernal march in the first and ninth episodes. There is much to exult in along the way but I would not recommend this as the first Lloyd work to try. For that you must seek out and choose from the Fourth, Fifth, Sixth and Seventh Symphonies (all on Albany).

The work is sung in Latin and the words are provided alongside the translation by Arthur Quiller-Couch (remember ‘Q’? Nothing to do with ‘Star Trek’!).

Rob Barnett

See also review by John France

NOTE FROM JOHN QUINN

I had some exposure to Lloyd's music back in the late 1970s/early 1980s when I was involved with Adrian Smith's Slaithwaite Philharmonic.

We actually gave the second public performance of the Sixth Symphony (the BBC Phil "pipped us to the post" by a matter of months doing it at that year's Proms). George Lloyd attended the performance (with his wife) and was very nice and most encouraging. As Secretary of the orchestra I had to arrange his visit and, of course, I got to meet him: he even apologised for not including any bassoon solos in the work (I was secretly relieved he hadn't)

Adrian and I went down to Manchester before that a couple of times for BBC studio concerts. It was this, plus broadcasts and recordings that made Adrian keen to do some Lloyd (and he did it very well). I remember Downes doing the Fourth (brilliantly) and Lloyd himself doing November Journeys.

I entirely agree with your comments about Lloyd's compositional quality declining as his exposure increased. I have to say that I've never quite found my way into the Vigil (which I bought when Argo first issued it) though I'm sure that's more my fault than Lloyd's and there can be no doubting the lyrical impulse and colourful writing and scoring of long passages.

I would certainly endorse your list of "key works" though I think I might substitute the 8th symphony for the 7th. Obviously I'm biased about the 6th for which I've retained a soft spot. What a shame that, as with so much else from that catalogue (Parry's wonderful Ode on the Nativity, for instance) the Lyrita Lloyd recordings seem doomed never to appear on CD.

John Quinn




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