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Judith BAILEY (b. 1941)
Havas – a period of summer, Op. 44 (1991) [18:12]
Concerto for orchestra, Op. 55 (1996) [17:20]
George LLOYD (1913-1998)
The Serf – Prelude to Act II (1938) [5:44]
In Memoriam (1982) [5:51]
Le Pont du Gard (1990) [10:56]
HMS Trinidad March (1941, rev. 1945) [6:03]
Miriam Lowbury (cello) (concerto)
Jennie-Lee Keetley (cor anglais) (Le Pont)
Bath Philharmonia/Jason Thornton
rec. St Jude’s Church, Hampstead Garden Suburb, London, 7 April 2014
All world premiere recordings

A shared Cornish birth links these two composers. George Lloyd is represented by four works heard in première recordings, which will be good news to his admirers, of whom I am one. The Prelude to Act II of his opera The Serf was a piece that he had intended to tape as part of a recording of the second suite to the opera - the first suite has already been recorded - but he died before that could happen. This music hasn’t been performed since 1938, but it deserves full-scale consideration. The prelude is full of his youthful warmth and easeful orchestration – delightful string sheen, with winds forwardly balanced. In Memoriam is a wholly different work, owing its creation to the IRA bombing of members of the Blues and Royals in Hyde Park in 1982. This is the original orchestral version of a work that has undergone transformation as the central movement of his brass suite, Royal Parks. It is certainly processional in nature but is studious in its refusal to indulge easily; hard won and stoic. Le Pont du Gard is a study of the Roman Bridge spanning the River Gardon in France, and a very unusual example of site-specific portraiture in Lloyd’s compositional life. One can hear the shepherds’ pipes in the early part of this eleven minute tone-poem which strikes me as part-Stravinskian in aspects of its depiction. The Elysian qualities lead on to a dance section with lovely subsequent string suspensions. It’s a richly argued work but never saturated, as it could easily have become, with postcard colour. HMS Trinidad March enjoyed some popularity during the Last Night of the 2013 Proms. Lloyd’s march for the ship in 1941 was chosen in preference to a piece by Vaughan Williams, which must have been something of a fillip for the younger man. It exists in four versions and naturally on this recording we hear the orchestral version. Others exist for winds, wind and strings, and brass band.
Judith Bailey was born in 1941 and it’s her piece, Havas, a Cornish word meaning ‘a period of summer’ that lends its name to the title of the disc. Sketched in 1991 it’s a bold and imaginative three-movement depiction of three specific places in Cornwall. Topography and myth coalesce in this work which is the very antithesis of some of Holst’s more chilly pieces, such as Egdon Heath. The first panel, Lanyon Quoit, is boldly atmospheric with wind buffeting to the fore. The central movement gathers itself into a vivid dance, whilst the last of the three is a seascape with church chorale to depict a church destroyed by flood. There are Baxian elements to the surge and power of the writing. A more recent work is the Concerto for Orchestra, of which the first performance was given in 1996. There are seven solo parts, and the music is appropriately chatty, busy in its opening. That said, one soon feels the sectional qualities of the music when it slows for a meditative panel for the solo cello — sensitively played by Miriam Lowbury — thence moving on to brass and percussion effects. The quiescent in this work is balanced by the rugged, but I’m not convinced by the way it ends, which strikes me as underwhelming after what has preceded it.
The performances throughout are very able, the Bath Philharmonia showing plenty of colour and dash. They are directed by Jason Thornton whose keen ear for balance works to the advantage of all the pieces.
Jonathan Woolf

Previous reviews: John France, David Barker, John Quinn & Rob Barnett

Judith Bailey website