LLOYD: Cello Concerto. Orchestral Suite No. l from "The
BRITTEN: The Young Person's Guide to the Orchestra, Op. 34. Four Sea
Interludes from Peter Grimes, Op. 33a. ELGAR: Enigma Variations, Op. 36.
Recently this site reviewed the stunning new Albany Troy SACD release of George Lloyd's Symphony No. 11 (see REVIEW). Earlier the label issued on SACD two other superlative recordings of music of this British composer as listed above. The seven-movement cello concerto, written in 1997 a year before Lloyd's death, is a major addition to concerted works for the instrument. Generally elegiac in nature, it is a lovely piece, obviously not intended to "bring down the house" in concert performances, as it ends with an exquisite largo. Filling out this SACD we have an orchestral suite from the composer's early opera The Serf, which had its first (and only) performance in 1938, the year it was written.The plot is rather similar to Die Walküre written almost seventy years earlier. Two doomed lovers, Sigrid and Cerdic, discover they are brother and sister when attempting escape from the feudal Lord Robert De Fulke who wants Sigrid for himself. When Robert is killed, the two have no choice but to part forever. Lloyd, disappointed that in spite of favorable reviews at the premiere, the opera was never again presented, wished the music to be heard and arranged this orchestral suite. This includes an exquisite love scene as well as other music appropriate for the plot, ending with Outrage, a surprisingly mild treatment of the title.
The other George Lloyd SACD contains one of his major works, Symphony No. 4 subtitled "Arctic." A tragedy occurred in 1942 when the HMS Trinidad on which Lloyd was serving was hit by a torpedo. Seventeen of Lloyd's close friends were killed and Lloyd nearly died from wounds and the trauma. His devoted wife took care of him and encouraged him to resume life and composition. Recovering slowly, after two decades, Lloyd wrote his Symphony No. 4. On the title page Lloyd wrote, "A world of darkness, storms, strange colours, and a far away peacefulness." The symphony wasn't performed until 1981 when Sir Edward Downes conducted it at the Cheltenham Festival with the Philharmonia Orchestra. It is an expansive work, obviously very important for the composer, although, except for a rather brief martial interlude in the first movement, the music doesn't suggest the terror Lloyd must have experienced that fateful day in 1942. Often the score is reminiscent of Korngold (and that's a compliment!), particularly the delectable Allegro scherzando. The symphony is presented with total authority with the composer conducting the excellent Albany Symphony, a first-class orchestra by any standards. While this is a SACD, it is not multi-channel. One has the advantage of SACD processing, but the original release was so good there is little difference—both are outstanding.
One is immediately impressed by the sound quality on Telarc's new SACD with Paavo Järvi and the Cincinnati Symphony. Everything is crystal clear, dynamic range is super-wide, and there is an admirable sense of the orchestra being right in front of the listener. All of the recordings were made in January of this year in Cincinnati's Music Hall. The organ in Enigma thunders through vividly, Telarc at its best. Still, I wish the label would offer a somewhat bigger and more resonant hall sound—but what is heard here is mightily impressive. YPG is admirably presented, but this performance of the Grimes interludes cannot match the best recordings of the past, in particular Bernstein/NYP on SACD (see REVIEW), and the remarkable 1953 Van Beinum/Concertgebouw recording which fortunately is still available. Enigma faces even greater historic competition, notably Boult, Monteux and Sargent, but most listeners will not be disappointed by this new Cincinnati issue.
R.E.B. (August 2006)