The Full Works Concert - Friday 28 June: George Lloyd Centenary

English composer George Lloyd was born 100 years ago today. Tonight, Anne-Marie Minhall turns the spotlight on the man himself and showcases some of his finest compositions.

George Lloyd

George Lloyd (1913-1998), according to one critic, composed 'as though on the moors of Cornwall or Yorkshire, not as though in a walled-in study'.

He was born into a musical family in St Ives, Cornwall, and began composing at the age of nine. He later studied composition - and violin with Albert Sammons, whose piece 'The Faithful Bird' we hear tonight.

Lloyd conducted the premiere of his first symphony, written at the age of 19 in 1933, with the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra. A second symphony had its premiere two years later and was soon followed by a third. His first opera, Iernin, with a libretto by his father, was performed in 1934 in Penzance, before being transferred to the Lyceum Theatre, London, where it had an unusually long run. His second opera, The Serf, was staged by Vladimir Rosing at Covent Garden in 1938. Lloyd's star was on the rise when war broke out and left a lasting effect on his health and career.

Lloyd served with the Royal Marines as a Bandsman onboard the HMS Trinidad. In 1942, the cruiser fired a faulty torpedo which travelled in a circular track and hit the ship itself. Many of Lloyd's shipmates were drowned and he was the last man to escape from their compartment. The composer suffered severe mental and physical trauma from the shell shock, and was hospitalised before being discharged from the Royal Marines.

When the war ended, his wife Nancy took him to Switzerland where, after four years, Lloyd wrote two symphonies and an opera commissioned for the 1951 Festival of Britain. But the work took its toll on his health which deteriorated dramatically. The couple took up residence in Dorset where Lloyd lived quietly, growing mushrooms and carnations. He still managed to compose regularly in the early hours of the morning, before the start of the rest of his day spent gardening.

George Lloyd's music was very tonal and melodic and failed to get much of a hearing for most of the 20th century once broadcasters and concert programmers had turned to more avant-garde styles.

But in 1972 Lloyd moved to London where began an extraordinary and productive Indian Summer, finally getting the acclaim he deserved towards the end of his life.

Tonight, Anne-Marie Minhall presents George Lloyd's Piano Concerto No.3 and his Symphony No.7. 

The lyrical and romantic Piano Concerto was Lloyd's longest such work. It has an abundance of memorable themes and is vigorously performed by Kathryn Stott with the composer himself conducting. 

The Symphony No. 7 was written in 1957-9 but only orchestrated in 1974. It is influenced by the story of the Greek mythological figure of Proserpine. It's a deeply moving and tragic work and perhaps it is in this symphony that Lloyd most obviously comes to term with his horrific experiences of 1942 and gives expression to his emotional turmoil.

 

George Lloyd: Symphony No.7
George Lloyd conducts the BBC Philharmonic Orchestra

Albert Sammons: The Faithfull Bird
Violin: Paul Barritt
Piano: Catherine Edwards

George Lloyd: Piano Concerto No.3
Piano: Kathryn Stott
George Lloyd conducts the BBC Philharmonic Orchestra

The Full Works Concert

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