Lloyd: Symphonies Nos. 1 and 12

Review by: David Hurwitz

Artistic Quality: 9

Sound Quality: 9

George Lloyd’s Twelfth and final symphony, like the previous work, was written to a commission by the Albany Symphony Orchestra, with whom he enjoyed such a fruitful relationship in the last years of his life. It is a valedictory work, ending warmly but quietly in rich chords for the full orchestra, an expression of calm satisfaction at a life in music well spent. At the time of its writing, Albany Records had expressed in interest in recording the First Symphony to round out the complete cycle, so Lloyd polished up the earlier piece for performance, and in the process decided to give his Twelfth in the same formal structure, thereby bringing the entire series full circle.

That form consists of an opening theme and variations, a slow movement, and a quick finale, and hearing these two pieces together offers a fascinating gloss on Lloyd’s development as a composer. Because he retained a stubborn adherence to traditional musical syntax, it’s easy to assume that a “conservative” artist like Lloyd didn’t grow or change at all over his career, but nothing could be further from the truth. The First Symphony is a pleasant, exuberant, but slightly anonymous piece in the tradition of the early 20th century English tonal school. One thinks of such minor masters as Stanford, Dyson, and Howells. The Twelfth, on the other hand, is clearly a work of the late 20th century, more ambitious in formal terms and scored with a full awareness of the potential of the modern orchestra. It’s melodic and harmonic character could have come from no one but Lloyd.

So in reality, like all of the best artists, Lloyd’s work reveals his capacity for ongoing creative renewal, his openness to those aspects of the contemporary scene that enriched his own musical vocabulary, and his self-awareness. I don’t want you to think, though, that this somewhat clinical description of the music in any way lessons the pleasures to be found in listening to it. Certainly the First is not as fine a piece as the Twelfth, but both symphonies offer plenty of rewarding moments, and the performances and sonics here are excellent. This may not be the first choice to start your Lloyd collection (for that, I’d suggest the Fourth, Fifth, Ninth, or Eleventh Symphonies), but once you’re hooked you certainly won’t want to miss it.

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Recording Details:

Reference Recording: None

GEORGE LLOYD - Symphonies Nos. 1 and 12

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