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Symphony 3 etc.
Lyrita New Recording
Sarah Beth Briggs
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George LLOYD (1913-1998)
Symphony No. 4 in B (1945-6) [60:02]
Symphony No. 5 in B flat (1947-8) [57:34]
Symphony No. 8 (1961 orch. 1965) [45:28]
rec. 1982-84, London? ADD
SRCD.2258 [3 CDs: 60:02 + 57:34 + 45:28]
life of George Lloyd, as Lewis Foreman’s exemplary booklet
notes tell us, was something of a heroic struggle against
misfortune, ill health and the indifference of the musical
into a musical family in Cornwall in 1913, Lloyd started
to learn the violin at the age of five and this enabled him
to participate in local musical performances. Subsequently
he continued his violin studies in London, with no less a
figure than Albert Sammons. Harry Farjeon, the brother of
the poet Eleanor Farjeon, was his composition tutor. Early
works included three symphonies - the third played by the
BBC Symphony Orchestra in 1935 under the composer’s baton
- and two operas, Iernin and The Serf, dating
from 1934 and 1938 respectively. The latter was produced
at Covent Garden conducted by Albert Coates where it was
well received. All seemed set for a successful career.
the Second World War Lloyd served as gunner on the North
Atlantic convoys. On one such voyage in 1942 Lloyd’s ship
was sunk due to a faulty torpedo and Lloyd was severely affected
by shell-shock. Moving to his wife’s home country of Switzerland,
and with her constant support and encouragement, Lloyd endeavoured
to resurrect his musical career. The physical and psychological
damage caused by his wartime experiences made this something
of an uphill struggle. It is against this background of convalescence
that Lloyd wrote his Fourth and Fifth Symphonies.
was then commissioned to write an opera for the 1951 Festival
of Britain, John Socman, which was premiered in Bristol
in May 1951 by the Carl Rosa Opera Company. Although popular
with audiences the critics were not impressed and this contributed
to a further decline in Lloyd’s health. Moving to Dorset,
he established a career as a market-gardener for the next
twenty years, only returning intermittently to composition.
was during the 1970s that the support and advocacy of figures
such as Charles Groves, John Ogdon and Edward Downes led
to a renaissance in performances of Lloyd’s music. Downes
in particular programmed several of Lloyd’s symphonies with
the BBC Northern Symphony Orchestra (later BBC Philharmonic)
and the Philharmonia Orchestra. Concerts in Manchester and
elsewhere led to the three recordings presented on these
Lyrita discs. Subsequently Lloyd himself recorded much of
his output for the American Albany label as a result of the
enthusiasm of director Peter Kermani. This further raised
Lloyd’s profile and he himself was delighted and reinvigorated
by the attention his music received. Leaving his business
in Dorset, he moved to London and resumed composition. Several
new works followed, many premiered under the composer’s baton,
in Britain and the United States. Audiences were delighted
by the approachability of Lloyd’s scores. “Buckets of Dollars” was
the composer’s delighted response. The onset of heart failure
in the autumn of 1996 eventually led to his death, aged 85,
two years later.
what of these pioneering performances under Downes’ baton?
I’ve not heard the composer’s own later recordings, but Downes
as we have seen was a great admirer of Lloyd’s music and
this is reflected in the drive and commitment of the Lyrita
storminess of the Fourth Symphony’s opening Allegro
moderato surely reflects the demons that a traumatised
Lloyd was trying to lay to rest in the post-war years. Bold
fanfares alternate with woodwind figures before the music
settles down to Bax-like melodic figures, ostinati and sequences
building a powerful sense of tension. Dramatic passages alternate
with sunnier episodes, but the music never loses impetus
and builds to a powerful climax. Towards the end wailing
woodwind and gunshot cracks on timpani give way to a calmer
passage before a brief return of the opening fanfares end
this powerful music.
still strings open the Lento tranquillo, creating
an atmosphere of stillness which contrasts with the first
movement, although Lloyd’s use of chromatic figures prevent
the music from becoming too restful. This leads to a more
animated central section that would not be out of place in
one of Tchaikovsky’s suites, before an abridged return of
the initial music.
drama of the first movement and songfulness of the second
are contrasted with the vivid dance music of the Allegro
scherzando. George Lloyd’s melodic gifts come into their
own here and conductor and orchestra appear to relish the
sheer joie-de-vivre of the music. What would Beecham have
made of it, I wonder? Buoyant, vivace passages are contrasted
with a slower section that again seems to suggest inspiration
from Russian music.
horn melody over tremolo strings introduces the last movement.
This builds to a powerfully affirmative melody before Lloyd
launches us into a joyful moto perpetuo, largely based
on one or two themes. The sheer energy of this movement is
remarkable. A contrasting central section with woodwind and
running figures on lower strings clouds the music for a time
before Lloyd brings back the initial section and the symphony
romps home to an affirmative close.
wanted the Fifth Symphony to represent a “psychological
journey” with each movement representing a particular stage
in that pilgrimage. The first movement Pastorale is
indeed a representation of bucolic innocence with its gentle
woodwind solos and arabesques. Although Lloyd says in his
programme notes for the work that he has omitted brass and
percussion from the movement, apparently this does not extend
to horns which can be clearly heard at 2:53 and 6:12. Overall
the delicacy of this movement reflects Lloyds own desire
to counter against the “over thick and opulent excesses of
the late Romantics” Lloyd’s use of a flattened seventh here
and there recalls Nielsen’s use of this device in his music.
second movement is entitled Corale and starts with
solemn brass chords before embarking on what Lloyd describes
as an “ecclesiastical” tune. He likens the serious tread
of this movement to the austere Calvinism observed in Switzerland
at the time he was writing this symphony. To emphasise the
solemnity Lloyd omits violins and violas. This generates
a dark processional mood throughout the movement.
the Rondo Lloyd works with a gossamer-like texture
and chattering woodwind and strings. More animated episodes
contrast effectively with the return of the Rondo theme itself.
fourth movement is marked Lamento and here Lloyd uses
the full orchestra for the first time in the work. The music
now touches on depths that have hitherto been avoided. An
emphasis on darker colours and heavy brass create something
of a doom-laden atmosphere which is swept aside by the Finale
(Vivace). As in the Fourth Symphony Lloyd now seeks
to create a positive conclusion to the work by way of contrast
after the dark character of the previous movement. Bustling
strings and bright themes lighten the mood and bring the
symphony to a positive conclusion.
Symphony followed another period of self-doubt during
which Lloyd had concentrated on non-musical activities.
The work was written in 1961 although the orchestration
was not completed until 1965. The first performance did
not take place until 1977! The BBC broadcast of this symphony
did much to alert people to Lloyd’s music and the subsequent
resurgence of his career could be said to date from this
time. In the Eighth Symphony Lloyd is harmonically more
adventurous than in the Fourth and Fifth, and there is
a surer grasp of material.
first movement Tranquillo – Allegro opens with a dreamy
introduction, featuring descending motifs on woodwind over
a carpet of strings, before a sforzando chord heralds the
start of the Allegro proper. Scurrying strings and syncopated
rhythms alternate with more lyrical passages. Lloyd’s writing
for brass is especially memorable and builds to a powerful
climax at 14:30 before a culminating statement of the lyrical
music. The music of the slow introduction returns at the
end and the movement concludes with an uneasy calm.
The Largo opens
with tremolando strings and harp figurations, creating a
mysterious atmosphere. Again the music seems slightly Baxian
in feel. The main part of the movement is a slow march which
Lloyd contrasts with allegretto interludes. These alternate
and build to a powerful statement of the main theme at 9:12.
The opening music returns at the end.
likens the final Vivace movement to the tarantella
of Mendelssohn’s Italian Symphony, and there is certainly
the same sense of moto perpetuo to be felt in the
two works. Harmonically the music is unsettled with constant
brass interjections propel the music towards the conclusion,
relieved only by a short interlude just before the end which
recalls the Largo.
was determined not to write long, highly organised symphonies
full of Elgarian splendours”. So wrote Lloyd in a programme
note, and in many ways his music can be seen as a personal
reaction against what he viewed as the excessive tension
and drama of several contemporary composers. There is little
of the apocalyptic menace of Walton’s First or Vaughan Williams’s
Fourth, or the close motivic workings of Sibelius. Lloyd
seems more interested in working with blends of orchestral
colour or contrasting - and admittedly memorable - themes
rather than working these into a closely argued framework.
Listeners unfamiliar with this music who have come to think
of the twentieth-century symphony as a vehicle for expressing
the darker events of the time may be surprised at the lightness
of touch and consonance of harmony Lloyd uses in these works,
particularly when you consider his own struggles. Despite
his statement above, these are long symphonies by any standards.
Lloyd is generally successful in controlling the contrast,
pace and development of his ideas in a way that constantly
holds the listener’s attention.
performances are first rate. Downes and the Philharmonia
realise the changing moods of the music to perfection, and
play with genuine commitment. The sound and balance of these
late-analogue recordings is excellent and a very believable
concert-hall balance is created. As usual with Lyrita the
presentation is of a high standard, with fascinating programme
notes by Lewis Foreman and the composer himself.
see also review by Rob
Barnett and Paul
Conway's article on Lloyd's symphonies
Gerard Hoffnung CDs
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