George Lloyd - critical reaction.

George Lloyd was well aware that his music provoked extreme reactions, both for and against.  "It was like that from the very start!" he said. "What happened then (in the 1930s) was exactly the same as happens now. A lot of people went absolutely overboard at my opera Iernin for example. There were people, who I got to hear about afterwards, who came night after night, - 5, 6, 7 times they would come to see it - they just went overboard. There were others who thought that I should go back to school, that I didn’t know anything at all,  and who really very actively disliked it. And that's exactly as the same as happens now." (Interview with Chris DeSouza) 

It is not difficult to find disparaging reviews of Lloyd's music if you look for them, and we do not pretend that they do not exist, but we make no apology for restricting the selection below to positive, optimistic and encouraging remarks. Whether you love it or hate it, Lloyd's achievement was remarkable. George Lloyd supervised the recording of 23 Compact Discs of his own music, and he received no subsidies from the Arts Council, academic institutions or from publishers. His recordings were financed wholly from private-sector commissions, CD sales and royalties. It was the overwhelming positive response of the public, evidenced not only by these sales, but also by the reaction at concerts and by the correspondence he received, that convinced him that he had a significant and loyal audience, for whom his music had meaning.

Although he composed with that audience in mind, his motivation was clear:
"I write what I have to write."

Symphony No 1
Full of youthful melody, even extravagant melody, for rich strings and sounding brass. The orchestration is already masterful. The Times Union, New York State 

Symphony No 2 
A work of vibrant colour and lyrical depth.  Gramophone 

Symphony No 3
The fertility, the conviction, the sheer force, the definitive character, the unblushing romanticism of this symphony compelled attention. The Times 

Symphony No 4 
I was hardly prepared for the imaginative power, fibre and muscle and sheer instrumental brilliance of the writing …a work of haunting tranquillity.. could almost be a long lost ballet by Tchaikovsky. 
Daily Telegraph
Those of us who heard the first performance of the Fourth in 1981 will never forget it. Massive in scale (it lasts over an hour), it draws on every conceivable emotion - fear, anger, grief, serenity, love - before a finale of the ecstatic reaffirmation of the triumph of life over death. It shows all Lloyd's talents at their best: his gift for orchestration not least, but also his apparently bottomless well of inventiveness. Simon Heffer. The Spectator.
It is difficult to see this as other than a major achievement among our own century’s symphonists. He is a master orchestrator. This is a marvellous symphony of great and permanent value.
 Gramophone 

Symphony No 5
This symphony is a feast …this is appealing music with a strong profile … enthusiastically recommended.  Henry Fogel, Fanfare 

The musical language is engaging … the orchestration is colourful, often luscious. He writes expressively and from the heart. The New York Times 

Symphony No 6
Wonderful … glisteningly colourful, emotionally wide-ranging … a simple but deeply touching Adagio … sounds completely like Lloyd, whose music does have its own sound world. Fanfare

Symphony No 6 is irresistible. He has a knack of catching the ear and then lodging in the memory … vintage Lloyd.  Which CD 

An innocence which reminded me of Mozart … among the most immediately winning of Lloyd’s symphonies, this one must be warmly welcomed as a new addition. Gramophone 

Symphony No 7
One of the most beautiful symphonies written in this centuryFanfare Critics Choice

The Seventh symphony is on a larger scale … the emotional heart searching is muted and lies beneath the surface … the end is curiously satisfying. Gramophone

Has you marvelling at the never-ending invention in its three long movements, with one idea treading on the heels of anotherGuardian

I have not the slightest doubt that this tremendous symphony should force anyone who cares about the European symphonic tradition to take Lloyd seriously as a major contributor to it. Tempo

Symphony No 8
Ambitious in scale … innate strength of character enables it to make its point directly, even tunefully, and still be indisputably modern music … a marvellous tonic .. might well spark off a new British musical renaissance.  The Listener

A heart moving work … classically tonal, coloured, sometimes substantially, by twists of twentieth century practice … the whole is beautifully scored, Lloyd displaying a mastery. Gramophone

Passionately English … like Strauss translated.  Edward Greenfield Penguin Guide

Symphony No 10
This is a substantial brass work, one with a significantly wider range of colour and depth of emotion than one normally finds in this medium… winningly conducted by the composer. Fanfare

An imposing piece, skilfully written for brass alone, - personal, un-derivative and as accessible as anything he has written
Which CD?

Symphony No 11
It is a marvellous work in every way, at the very least equalling his earlier symphonies; and these are gradually becoming a contribution of the first magnitude.  Gramophone

A profound, original and well-structured work, displaying a fearsome range of emotions, not unlike the Fourth.  It is another long work but gripping in its intensity and beauty … it may turn out to be one of his most performed pieces, because of its depth and originality. Weekend Telegraph

Symphony No 12
The 12th symphony is an inspired work, which will be widely played. The Times Union , New York State

True romantic music … both (with the 1st Symphony) are marvellous pieces and join the fourth and Seventh Symphonies as the finest examples of Lloyd’s work. Chicago Daily Herald 

Iernin – A Celtic Opera
George Lloyd showed that rarest of all qualities in a British composer, an almost unerring perception of what the stage requires .. an extraordinary achievement.  The Times 

One of the most successful operas written by a British composer. The Musical Times 

Mr Lloyd is bound to no schools or theories … has a vigorous individuality .. he is not afraid to write a tune. Daily Telegraph

…a remarkably assured work for a 19 year old .. many notable moments including the multi-part choral writing for ‘The Giant of Carn Galva’ and the magical closing chorus .. in fact the whole of the final scene … is impressive .. the lovely aria ‘The Spell is Past’ is reminiscent of Puccini in its Romantic intensity.
 BBC Music Magazine

The Serf
The production of Mr George Lloyd’s new opera The Serf was an event of much significance … received with rapture … the audience breaking into cheers and demanding more curtain calls … a most un-English phenomenon. the score is dramatic … a fine sense of contrast of timbre, mood and style…his opera is rich in feeling and in moments of sheer musical beauty. Liverpool Daily Post

John Socman
A stirring and intensely dramatic opera … it has tremendous vitality … his work is grand, full of power and vision, culminating in a magnificent chorus … it deserves a permanent place in the repertory … the opera was given a most enthusiastic reception. The Stage 

Pervigilium Veneris.
This is an absolute delight – a vast, kaleidoscopic choral work that fans of Lloyd will love, and that should win new ones to his cause.. the musical style is Lloyd’s familiar brand of rich neo-Romanticism but he skilfully weaves in melodic ideas that recall ancient change … at times the music is sparsely scored; at other times the full richness of possibilities inherent in a modern orchestra and chorus is used… a work ranging through many moods and colours … one is again and again overwhelmed by its fervour, its imagination, and its sheer energy. 
Henry Fogel, Fanfare

It was clear from last night’s premiere why Lloyd’s music is enjoying a growing audience … while having the vigour and vitality of the new, Lloyd’s work is strong in its appeal to traditional musical tastes … it is neither stuffy or radical, but fresh and approachable, beautifully evoking the rebirth of spring … this work is an undoubted success … a powerful performance from the orchestra and chorus. Western Mail

The Welsh National Opera under his (Lloyd’s) own direction were its vibrant champions … an exuberant setting … it calls for generous forces, including soprano and tenor soloists…where it sharply differs from the music of many home-grown “watercress” composers .. is in its urgency and the effectiveness of its … scoring … in it Lloyd largely uses poster paint colours, with little light and shade in his effusive, glowing palette … (it) undoubtedly achieved a certain splendour. Evening Standard 

The Vigil of Venus demonstrates even more strikingly than his symphonies Lloyd’s generosity of response, his immediate warmth of communication … the heart-warming response at the Festival Hall opulent sounds … unashamedly sensuous. Guardian

Modal melodies … well spiced but tonal harmonies …extrovert orchestration … it is a remarkable pictorial essay from a composer who … has something essential within himself to express … performed with great spirit under the composer’s direction. The Times

Lush harmonies and sumptuous textures … there is a freshness to the way he leads the music on … the choral writing is ingenious, with an unfailing grasp of what the voice can do … Lloyd uses a large orchestra in an orthodox but sensitive manner … the Vigil of Venus is instantly approachable … Lloyd’s skill, exuberance and response to the sounds of the words are indisputable…Daily Telegraph


Lloyd’s writing is described as ‘conventional’ and so it is, but to such an extent of gathering a kind of cult appreciation … the monumental weight of the 80 minute score was itself imbued with a sense of occasion. The Independent  

A Litany

Lloyd found inspiration for A Litany in a “sufficiently vague” poem by John Donne that illustrates “the abiding human tragedy: that we don’t know where the devil we came from or where we’re going to”. Taking 12 of Donne’s 28 verses, Lloyd has set them into four separate movements for permutations of baritone and soprano solo, chorus and orchestra; not always an easy task given the unevenness of the text. . . . The other challenge was to “blend together orchestra and chorus; make them equal partnersTaken from an interview in Gramophone, November 1996. 

Here is a composer who knows what he himself likes, and is not going to write differently because the trend of the times is against him. Besides, he probably suspects that what he likes is what a majority of the listening public likes too, except that it is intimidated by modern orthodoxy into denying it... The orchestral score, rich in colour and varied in resources is royally served by the Philharmonia, and, with the 83-year-old composer in charge, the well-recorded performance carries all the conviction proper to a man who writes as he likes, irrespective of fashion.  Gramophone

A colder wind may be felt in this work than in some of his previous scores, yet Lloyd’s optimism keeps breaking through, and as he tells us in his note in the vocal score: “In spite of John Donne’s catalogue of human frailties and disasters there are verses in the poem that give some hope, and these are the verses I have used to end the work”. The composer’s ending is in his most exciting orchestrally brilliant vein. The audience loved it... This is a work of bold gestures and juxtaposed primary colours.
The British Music Society Magazine

This “old fashioned” composer, who writes real tunes, orchestrates with remarkable ear for colour and has a good sense of dramatic pacing as well, should find a wide audience. That he doesn’t says much about a music industry that insists on promoting the most difficult and esoteric of new music, and that tends to sneer at those who write in a tonal, melodic style. Although Lloyd’s music has touches in it that could only have been written in our time, its general mood and atmosphere are firmly rooted in Romanticism. His long breathed melodies fall pleasurably on the ear and remain there long after the music has ended.  Fanfare

A major new choral work – intensely committed singing, generous tunes... the choral writing grows increasingly ecstatic. A paean of confidence.
The Daily Telegraph

‘A Litany’ celebrates the English choral tradition as confidently as Parry, Elgar and Vaughan Williams.
The Financial Times 

Requiem
He fashioned himself a most touching headstone: the work is emphatically moving... it speaks with a sober, understated dignity. Its composer being the man he was, the musical language is immediately accessible and unashamedly melodic – his tunes melt in your ears. The harmonic world is less individual than much of his orchestral music, but I wonder whether that wasn’t part of his design – a retreat of the individual before something larger and more important. And somehow the sentiment survives the relative anonymity of the language. Lloyd does use plenty of dramatic contrast, though: his chorus exclaim as well as whisper; soloists step forward from their ranks; the style ranges from richly Romantic to false-Medieval; the organ subtly underpins here and thunders there. This is the kind of work that choirs all across the world would enjoy singing, and I will not be surprised if it travels far and wide. This fine CD might well prove to be its boarding pass.   International Record Review, January 2003

Realising that he might not complete the work, George Lloyd decided not to score it for full orchestra, choosing instead the more intimate combination of counter-tenor, chorus and organ. This lends the work an otherworldly quality which is unusual for a composer normally so earthy and immediate in his writing. The counter-tenor part imbues the piece with an archaic beauty normally the preserve of a composer like John Tavener. The organ writing in this piece is very accomplished... Indeed, there are very few moments in the Requiem when one misses the larger spectrum of colour which a full orchestra would have provided, the work’s own unique sound world within the Lloyd canon proving to be emotionally satisfying in its own right, especially in this valedictory context.  Lest we should think George Lloyd had totally forsaken his usual style, he includes some passages where his bluff Cornish good humour bursts in: the march-like tread of the Hostias exudes a Cornish fairy-tale atmosphere while the gentle strains of the intermezzo-like Liber Scriptus wouldn’t have sounded out of place in the relaxed and tuneful world of the Sixth Symphony... The highly characteristic “big tune” at the end of the concluding Lux Aeterna is especially poignant. That George Lloyd should have finished his life’s work with a choral piece is very fitting in the light of his early operatic triumphs in the 1930’s and his more recent success with the Symphonic Mass. The Requiem’s reduced forces may make further performances more financially viable than his more large-scale works and the subtlety and overall serenity of the writing may well win new friends for the composer from those listeners who normally shy away from his more extrovert, multi-decibel statements.   
Music Web International, April 2000

Lloyd’s final work, movingly performed... Written at the very end of his life, the work was published only months before the composer’s death in 1998: it is not, however either morbid or sentimental. If one looks for affinities, they are to be found at least as much with Fauré as with his beloved Verdi. The mood is contemplative and affectionate but exceeds these limits to include a vigorous Dies Irae, a lively Sanctus and a colourful Osanna. The choral writing is characteristically good for singing, with broad Italianate melodic lines which could do with a more liberal infusion of polyphony but gains a less expected strength through an element of quasi-medieval organum.  British Music Society

This disc will be a compulsory acquisition for any Lloyd fan but it will also be lovingly appreciated by an admirer of the vocal music of Fauré, Rutter or Holst. A lovely remembrance of a warm-hearted composer who wrote against the spirit of the times and whose music finally met success. His was a dazzling creativity that reached its apex in Symphonies No. 4 to No. 7 and the Pervigilium. Requiescat in pacem.  Rob Barnett

Violin Concertos

It is our contention that George Lloyd put some of his most imaginative and unusual music into his chamber music and concertos. The symphonies and choral works are big, romantic, immediately appealing. The concertos and chamber music are like - well, the two works contained on this disc. As a young man, Lloyd studied violin with the great English violinist Albert Sammons. Writing for the violin came naturally to him. These two concertos are unusual in that No. 1 is written for violin and wind ensemble (woodwinds in threes, 2 horns, 2 trumpets and 2 trombones, with no percussion or strings) and No. 2 is written for violin and strings only. These two works were recorded during the week before George Lloyd died on July 3, 1998. In fact, he was supposed to conduct these performances, but David Parry stepped in at the last minute and with the wonderful Rumanian violinist Cristina Anghelescu and members of the Philharmonia Orchestra to complete the project. The recording was made in Henry Wood Hall. George was even too ill to attend the sessions, but he was making suggestions as to the best placement of the players to achieve just the recorded sound he wanted 48 hours before his death. This beautiful recording is a fine and lasting memorial to this composer whose music brings such passionate joy to so many music lovers all over the world.  Presto Classical

Those familiar with Lloyd's warm, spacious, big-hearted, sumptuously orchestrated symphonies won't be disappointed with his violin concertos. Allegros are jaunty, cheerful, ebullient, and packed with dandy tunes, adagios infused with tender longing and nostalgic melancholy....Performances are excellent - soloist Cristina Anghelescu is wonderful - and record sound strong, clear, and natural. Music lovers (like me) who have succumbed to Lloyd's symphonies will want these concertos too. If you haven't yet discovered Lloyd, I would recommend you start with the splendid Fifth Symphony on Albany 22. Then check out these concertos. American Record Guide

 

Piano Works

One's first impression of the title; can these frivolities—Intercom Baby, The Aggressive Fishes—possibly be written by the same George Lloyd, the composer of those symphonies so regularly declaring the best face of twentieth-century man? Yet indeed they are, and indeed a new facet of the composer is exposed; for although the thinking is not always quite so slight as the titles suggest, its expression in terms of piano lay-out is masterly.

Shafts of beauty do shine through, in some cases they even dominate.
 The Road through Samarkand, for example, is a road different from that travelled by Flecker or Delius; for it is that trodden, according to the music, joyfully, by the young of the 1960s who thought salvation might lie in dancing from Calais to Calcutta in search of the Oriental Verities (but it did not, especially in Calcutta). The originally cheerful Bogside Beggar runs fearfully away from soldiers, only to die in the chase. The Aggressive Fishes are beautiful, tropical ones addicted to fits of anger. Indeed, nothing is so good as it seems, a feeling borrowed from real life. But the Intercom Baby is a real baby his mother listening for trouble on the intercom; the beautiful lullaby is hardly disturbed. The African Shrine, however, proves a refuge while wars rage around it: those of us who have part of our hearts in Africa, wondering miserably when it will come to its senses, will do well if we manage to fight off tears.

The underlying poetry of the music is, I think serious rather than flippant: both angles splendidly brought out by Roscoe, in performances of total authority. He is also very well recorded; it is impossible to suppose that a listener wishing to explore this new, or newly available, face of Lloyd the humanist, and Lloyd the composer, will ever have a better opportunity. 
Gramophone

 

General remarks: What the critics say. 

On my left an elderly man in tweeds shouted "a masterpiece" and sprang to his feet.  On my right a Scots lass exclaimed "I'll certainly be buying a CD of that".   Not often does new music have this effect.  Respectful tolerance is common, but monster raving loony ecstasy? This can only mean one thing - a George Lloyd World Premiere’. The Times 

If there is a greater living symphonist I would much like to hear his music…   Malcolm MacDonald, Gramophone 

George Lloyd is a major composer.  It’s about time we said it flat out – no qualifications…  The Times Union, New York State 

His music is genuinely dramatic and he shows a real flare for creating character and developing a situation … orchestration is colourful … his chorus writing is often strikingly effective…Music of Today (1964)


A composer with so much to say that is pertinent to our time, capable of expressing it with such vigour, candour and skill, must be accounted a vital creative force in contemporary English music. Liverpool Daily Post 


To have collected Covent Garden Opera House and the Lyceum Theatre before the age of 26 is not bad for a young composer.  It is something like mounting on the first page of your stamp album a Mauritius and a triangular Cape.. to my mind the chief merits of Lloyd’s music are power of climax, beauty of harmony and vocal line … George Lloyd should take a prominent place for he lives, breathes, and exhales opera, and in this he is unique among our coming men.  Harry Farjeon, The Monthly Musical Record 

Lloyd’s approach to composition is very much a traditional one.  His is a naturally lyric gift, he likes the long line, and cannot help but write tunes, and that and his colourful use of the orchestra makes his music immediately accessible… Lewis Foreman,  Records & Recording 

Words like “fiery”, “dynamic”, “bright”, “breezy”, “light”, “frothy” will crop up time and again in his musical vocabulary.  Beneath all the surface energy, though, lies a deep seated lyricism – the sadness, the weightier matters of the 4th, 5th and 7th Symphonies, for instance. Radio 3 Magazine   
 

There’s no doubt that the intrinsic lyricism, purposefulness and general optimism have reached a grateful audience… Peter Herring, Hi Fi News 

He is in the opinion of some, (myself included) the greatest symphonist in the world today. Raymond Jones, Classical Remarks

The success that George Lloyd is now enjoying as a composer restores one’s faith in human nature. The latest of his works to be recorded – the 7th Symphony – is issued with the composer conducting a superb performance by the BBC Philharmonic Orchestra.  Its release marks another step forward for the reputation of a gifted composer after years of unjust neglect.  His fight back against illness and a prejudiced musical establishment with little time for anything but the avant-garde, has been a triumph. George Lloyd’s music is now performed almost as fast as he can write it … it is untrue to say “they don’t write music like that anymore”.  They do: George Lloyd does. Simon Heffer, Daily Telegraph 

The composer is evidently a master of the romantic orchestra, he scores conventionally but very effectively. New Yorker
 

He is original and tonal.  He pulls off transitions from limpid grace to lyric simplicity.. a thoroughly engaging textural freshness and springiness .. the music is accessible, pleasing and colourful.. A second hearing unearths new structural solidity, finely wrought detail and a marvellous sense that this is music to hear again… Christopher Greenleaf, Chicago Symphony Programme 

He is one of those composers who intuitively arrive at a very personal style early on in a career rather than one who gradually chisels out a changing idiom…Lewis Foreman 

He is now recognised as a major composer of the late 20th Century, writing in a unique, romantic style that appeals directly to audiences, because its inspiration stems from traditional methods, but is of today … it is something different and very beautiful, but somehow oddly familiar … Lloyd has “a sort of serious sweetness” that is totally infectious… Roddy Phillips, Evening Express 

What then is his music like?  An impossible question to answer satisfactorily.  It is variously described as neo-romantic, melodic, traditional in style yet clearly modern, extrovert, cheerful and instantly approachable.  It should be heard not described … the fact that his music is immediately attractive and worse still actually liked by ordinary listeners would seem to be sufficient reason for critical dismissal. Alick Dowling, West of England Medical Journal 

One of the best aspects of English music in the past few years has been the long-overdue revival of the music of George Lloyd … the resurgence in enthusiasm for his work here (America), and the fact that he is still producing fine works today, ought to persuade impresarios to make more use of his talents in front of home audiences.  Simon Heffer, Daily Telegraph 

Lloyd’s intelligent and tuneful works are immensely popular with a public repelled by most contemporary music … as a symphonic composer Lloyd is lush in the romantic tradition of his favourite operatic composers, Verdi and Puccini.   Simon Heffer, Weekend Telegraph 


Lloyd lovers talk most often of his tunes .. on simple hummability he knocks his avant-garde opponents out of the ring… it’s a safe bet that the best of Lloyd’s music will outlive them all. Ian MacDonald, Twenty Twenty 

For those unfamiliar with the work of George Lloyd, do get to hear some … it is modern and fresh yet contains many traditional aspects of the music we have come to love over the years in this country … he is highly original … perhaps the last of the Romantics. Kenneth Cox, Herald Express 

The music of this man is ceaselessly fascinating.  A late romantic idiom, soundly crafted, with a generous sweep to the big tunes.  His facility for writing persistently memorable tunes seems endless.  Exceptionally fine, warm, romantic, richly coloured, brimming with infectious spirit and fun. Yorkshire Post 

The aspect to admire in his music is the sheer dynamism, the energy of overflowing ideas … a determined creative spirit…  Geoffrey Norris, The Daily Telegraph  

Lloyd’s approach to composition is very much a traditional one.  His is a naturally lyric gift, he likes the long line, and cannot help but write tunes, and that, and his colourful use of the orchestra makes his music immediately accessible. He is one of those composers who intuitively arrive at a very personal style early on in a career rather than one who gradually chisels out a changing idiom. Lewis Foreman, Records & Recording

One does not recall any opera that reflects more truly and individually the Genius of these Isles than 'Iernin.'  Its outstanding quality is its Englishness, and one has to go to 'Hugh the Drover' for anything approaching it in national outlook and freshness of style. A great and memorable undertaking, which non present will readily forget. Musical Opinion 

Writing which is real, and genuinely inspired. Immediately communicative, without a single facile bar. This, in my view, is one of the finest pieces of English choral writing of the 20th century. Gramophone, reviewing Symphonic Mass

A major achievement among our own century’s symphonists. Lloyd is a master orchestrator. Gramophone 

In 1951 they wrote him off as a reactionary; I prefer to think he was ahead of his time. Gramophone

I have not the slightest doubt that this tremendous symphony should force anyone who cares about the European symphonic tradition to take Lloyd seriously as a major contributor to it. Tempo 

One of the great works to come out of the English Choral tradition.  Urgently recommended. Fanfare 

A landmark of post-modernist music.  A great work by any measure. Which CD Award for Best Orchestral Recording 

Ambitious in scale … innate strength of character enables it to make its point directly, even tunefully, and still be indisputably modern music … a marvellous tonic .. might well spark off a new British musical renaissance.  The Listener

I have no hesitation in saying that it is quite the most remarkable work produced by a British composer during the last 20 years, whether in the form of opera, or other musical forms. The composer of this work has a unique talent, which one may well suppose to be Genius, sparing as one must be in one's use of that word.  It is entirely fresh and original in inspiration, and shows clearly not only great power but also an intense sense of beauty, and a deep emotional and imaginative sense.  There is no doubt at all that this truly remarkable work will be accepted, wherever it is heard, for what it actually is - a great opera, and a splendid piece of music. John Ireland, (of Iernin.) 

To have collected Covent Garden Opera House and the Lyceum Theatre before the age of 26 is not bad for a young composer. It is something like mounting on the first page of your stamp album a Mauritius and a triangular Cape. to my mind the chief merits of Lloyd’s music are power of climax, beauty of harmony and vocal line … George Lloyd should take a prominent place for he lives, breathes, and exhales opera, and in this he is unique among our coming men. Harry Farjeon, The Monthly Musical Record (1933)