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George Lloyd's Requiem Mass will take place as part of the
Requiem Mass by George Lloyd - World Premiere Performance
The Exon Singers and Stephen Wallace, counter-tenor, directed by Mathew Owens.
St Barnabas Church, Jericho, Oxford at 8.00 pm. (Close to Railway Station)
Also on the programme: ThomasTallis: Lamentations I and II
Paretorius/Sandtrom: Det ar Ros utsprungen
Holst: The Evening Watch
Further booking information from Playhouse Box Office at 01865 798600
Further Festival Information from OCM, at 01865 432674
George Lloyd - A Personal Tribute by Paul Conway
The news of the passing of George Lloyd on July 3rd, though not unexpected, objectively speaking, (he had been seriously ill for over a year) was still shocking to those lucky enough to have met this lively, life-enhancing man who seemed to belie his advancing years - indeed there was something childlike (though nothing childish) about his boundless enthusiasm. We met on three separate occasions (all of them at his flat in Clarence Gate Gardens, London) and I treasure the memories of each of these meetings very deeply, not only for the hospitality and generosity of spirit displayed by George and his wife Nancy (who always joined us, kindly providing tea and cakes) but for the wide-ranging conversations - it was a great pleasure for me to see the sparkle and spirit of a man who had not been treated kindly by life and yet had survived almost impossible odds, responsible for some of the most instantly appealing, colourful and lyrical 20th Century music I had ever heard.
The first time I saw George Lloyd was in June 1994: the previous year, I had been systematically borrowing the scores of his symphonies prior to writing an article on them and this posting back and forth had gone on for some while (there are 12 of them!) as at this time the George Lloyd Library set up by his nephew William did not yet exist. On the occasion of this first meeting the composer was on great form, full of stories such as his involvement in the Chicago Symphony Orchestra performance of his Seventh Symphony. Apparently the conductor Neeme Jarvi wanted to give the first performance of this work but George refused, saying he wanted to perform the work first before anyone else and he informed the managers of the Chicago orchestra of this on the telephone - I can still see him chuckling with impish glee at this - "Imagine little me telling these important people I was refusing to allow them their way" he laughed, clapping his hands and jumping up and down in his seat. He also paid tribute to the marvellous playing of the Chicago orchestra (though not Jarvi's conducting) in what is arguably his greatest symphony. I think he hated almost above all else to be misrepresented by conductors not in tune with his very personal soundworld.
George stressed that he saw himself as an Opera composer first and foremost and had the terrible events of his War service not intervened, he would have gone on to build a career in this field. He viewed the symphonies as extensions of the methods and techniques employed in his operas and was most insistent that (like Mozart before him) he thought in terms of the human voice, no matter what musical form he was tackling. George cited Verdi as his major influence, especially Rigoletto - he enthused about the Quartet in particular, where every musical line conveys a different character.
Inevitably we began to discuss his Symphonies: the Fourth Symphony was his favourite (the only Symphony he chose to take with him when he appeared on Desert Island Discs in 1995). It held a deep significance for him and he regarded it as amongst his very best work - at the time he began it, he was doubled up in pain in hospital and realised that he "had to start writing music again" or give up. George told me that he was almost always ill before and after he composed a major work, perhaps most spectacularly after completing the great and uncharacteristically bleak Seventh Symphony when he had to be "lugged off to hospital" as he was "in a bit of a stew" (his terminology was a constant source of delight to me, particularly his use of the word "gel" to describe a young lady).
He regarded the Symphonies 1-3 as reflecting the confidence of youth and was keen for me to pass quickly on to the Fourth in my article (in the event, I found the well-crafted Second, for example, to be every bit the equal of his later work and in the case of his last three Symphonies, superior!) He had decided to perform and record the Third in the early 1990s when he found out someone else was performing it, another example of his desire never to be "misrepresented". He told me that the first movement of the Fifth Symphony was the most difficult to get right as regards capturing the right mood and felt that neither the Lyrita recording under Edward Downes nor even his own for Albany quite succeeded. With the Eleventh he made a conscious decision to extend his range in orchestration and instrumentation and felt that the work would probably come into its own in a good live performance
The next time I met him in September 1994, he was in less ebullient mood. It was just prior to a concert in the Barbican consisting of the world premiere of his "Dying Tree", the British premiere of "Floating Cloud" and the London premiere of his Symphony no 11. As it turned out these were all superbly performed by the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra (the composer was right about the Symphony "coming into its own" in a live performance as the extravagantly scored movements made a huge impact!) but at the time George was worried about the lack of rehearsal time and the pressures of conducting these three demanding pieces was clear. The previous evening he had seen a performance on the television of Carl Orff's "Carmina Burana" which, amazingly, he claimed he had never heard before - "I didn't think much of that!" he snorted and indeed if one compares the piece to George's richly coloured Symphonic Mass, the Orff work does begin to seem rather anaemic, "Old Spice" notwithstanding!
On this occasion, George spoke of conductors and had a very clear view of what he liked: he was very impressed with a Proms broadcast that summer - by Esa-Pekka Salonen and the Los Angeles Philharmonic and he cited both this conductor and Carlos Kleiber as models of how to control an orchestra: he was so impressed with Kleiber's conducting of the 1989 New Year's Day concert in Vienna that he bought the video of the occasion. He admired early Karajan (though despised the streamlined interpretations of later years) and disapproved of what he termed Toscanini's "metrical approach" to conducting - he saw a performance of Verdi's Requiem conducted by Toscanini before the War and was unimpressed! He was also lacking in enthusiasm for Stravinsky as a performer of his own music, citing as an example a concert he heard in the 1920s when the Russian composer played in a concert of his own piano music in London - "two hours of mezzo-forte playing!" cried George, in disgust!
He named his three favourite compositions as the "Symphonie Fantastique", "Elektra" and "The Rite of Spring", the latter introduced to him by John Ireland, who claimed the work had influenced George in his Opera "Iernin" (in fact George had never heard the work!). Mention of Ireland turned the conversation neatly around to British composers. George claimed Benjamin Britten was a "bête noire" of his on account of his pacifism which allowed him to escape the horrors of the War and go on to produce his string of operatic successes, something denied to George. However, in typical positive style he did comment "there is a lot of good writing in the War Requiem!". He preferred early Walton to late, lamenting what he considered to be the falling off in inspiration but loved the "Johannesburg Festival Overture", also a favourite of mine and we agreed on Delius as well - "to be listened to only occasionally...perhaps once a year!" He also claimed to have come to appreciate Vaughan Williams only relatively recently - in his youth he detested the pastoralism of RVW as well as the folk-based music of Holst. He was appreciative of John Ireland's music which he felt was influenced by European developments and not "folksy" like most other English contemporaries of Ireland.
I met George Lloyd for the last time in the summer of 1997, prior to a concert I was attending at the Spitalfields Festival which included a performance of Judith Weir's Piano Concerto for piano and nine strings which intrigued George - he had not heard any music by Judith Weir and wondered how the piece could escape being a Nonet for strings and piano! George spoke very warmly of John Ogdon and recalled that the pianist had stayed with Nancy and George whilst taking composition lessons from him. His admiration for Ogdon's playing was unstinting and the premiere of the First Piano Concerto with Ogdon as soloist under Sir Charles Groves and the RLPO was still a clear and shining memory. Other artists he expressed an especial admiration for were Dinu Lipatti, Gigli and Heifetz (the Tchaikovsky Violin Concerto with Heifetz and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra under Reiner was one of his favourite recordings).
George spoke once more of his love for Italian opera (an unending source of inspiration for him), in particular middle-period Verdi and Donizetti, whose work his father had referred him to as a youth when George was trying to work out problems of characterisation in his own early attempts at operatic writing. He spoke out against what he termed the "declamatory" style of opera as begun with Wagner and exemplified by Berg's "Wozzeck". The one-act opera by Stockhausen "Donnerstag aus Licht" was, for George, the reducto ad absurdum of dispensing with counterpoint in Opera as for some time in the Stockhausen opera, George claimed there was no singer on the stage at all - "the singers have had their tunes taken away from them and now the orchestra have none" he lamented. When I expressed surprise at his having heard of the opera, Stockhausen not being a name which readily springs to my mind in connection with George Lloyd, he told me he had listened to many avant-garde pieces (including Stockhausen's "Gruppen" for three orchestras) on the radio during the 60s at the time of the Glock regime, the very force which was keeping his own music off the airwaves - an example of his own lack of bitterness and insatiable curiosity. He dismissed serialism as a dead end, based on a fallacy. To George everything in life was related: he believed that people are products of their own environment and no real music could come from a rigid pattern.
At this last meeting the composer was obviously unwell and I was saddened to find someone who had seemed to be indestructible when I last saw him eventually having to succumb to the frailty of life. Nonetheless, he was as generous with his time as ever and spoke with excitement over the forthcoming CD of piano music for two hands (of which he very kindly gave me a free copy). He mentioned future plans for composing a Cello Concerto and a Suite from his opera "The Serf": he was particularly keen to get this reorded as the opera contained "some of my best music". He was also excited about the forthcoming recording of the Violin Concertos and spoke warmly of the Rumanian soloist, Cristina Anghelescu.
My most vivid memories are of a most hospitable and generous man, always interested in other people and lacking in artifice to the point of vulnerability. Seemingly unpeturbed by his recent success and showing no sign of bitterness about his many years in the musical wilderness, he did say, however, that he thought John Drummond "hates my guts" - a plausible explanation as to why his pieces were never performed at the Proms at this time but surely now the Prommers should be allowed to share in the joys of the Symphonic Mass and the great middle-period Symphonies for example. He was a most inspirational figure and I am particularly glad that he was able to read my article on his Symphonies (Newsletters 75 and 76) as I was most concerned that they should be factually correct: he was pleased with what I had written and was kind enough to say that I had "treated them handsomely".
Finally, to end this brief tribute I would like to mention a recording session for the 1977 Violin Concerto no2 which I attended at Henry Wood Hall on 30th June of this year. It was a bad sign and a clear indication of the poor state of the composer's health that George himself could not be present as he was always most passionate about the recording of his works. As the Philharmonia strings, under the baton of David Parry, floated the main theme (or "Big Tune" as he liked to call them) of the beautiful slow movement, the composer's presence seemed to fill the room of the recording studio - an emotionally powerful and moving experience: I shall always be grateful to have been given the opportunity (by William Lloyd) to attend. The first movement of the Second Violin Concerto completed the session - a most amazing performance: the whole thing done in one powerful take at the end of which the orchestra spontaneously applauded the virtuosic playing of the soloist, Cristina Anghelescu. BMS members can be assured of a most welcome addition to the George Lloyd discography and one which, for me in particular, will have a very special meaning.
Paul Conway 7/98
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