Review by: David Hurwitz
Artistic Quality: 10
Sound Quality: 10
George Lloyd composed one of the most impressive and appealing symphonic cycles of the 20th century, and it was his great good fortune to partner with the Albany Symphony Orchestra and Albany Records in the last years of his life, a relationship that produced the eleventh and culminating work in the series. There was one more symphony yet to come, the valedictory Twelfth, also written for these forces, but anyone familiar with this composer will agree that this, his biggest, boldest statement, is the work that best sums up his achievement. I take great pleasure in welcoming back this reissue, nicely repackaged with excellent notes, magnificently performed under the composer’s own baton, and sounding better than ever in discreet multichannel SACD format.
Written in a shapely, five-movement arch form (like the Fifth Symphony, the U.S. premiere of which I was fortunate enough to arrange and in which I played), the Eleventh is simply chock-full of memorable tunes, arresting gestures, and brilliant orchestration. The idiom is unashamedly romantic in its grandeur and sweep, and in its concentration on the expression of human emotion.
All of Lloyd’s music has great surface appeal, and this often conceals its intelligent organization and shrewd planning. Here it all climaxes in an exultant (the composer’s word) finale that offers a triumphant apotheosis unmatched not only in Lloyd’s work, but in just about everyone else’s. Despite the Hollywood ending, with plenty of celebratory crashing and bashing from cymbals and tam-tam, the composer manages to keep everything sounding fresh, a credit to the quality of his melodic invention. Lloyd’s gestures never lack substance, and the three inner movements offer plenty of opportunities for heartfelt intimacy as well.
Lloyd is still awaiting the attention that his music deserves. In the mid-20th century he was ignored because his style was seen as regressive and out of date. Now, with composers flocking back to tonality in droves, he’s in danger of getting lost in the shuffle, of having won the battle only to lose the war. As you can hear for yourself, his music surely deserves to endure. Thank heaven for recordings, and for the enterprise and expertise of the Albany Symphony (and label) for keeping the flame burning. If you missed this disc the first time around, don’t by any means pass up the opportunity to get to know this powerful, passionate, terrific symphony.
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Recording Details:Reference Recording: This One
GEORGE LLOYD - Symphony No. 11