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Lloyd: Requiem, Etc / Owens, Wallace, Makinson, Exon Singers

Release Date: 10/29/2002 
Label:  Albany Records   Catalog #: 450   Spars Code: DDD 
Composer:  George Lloyd
Performer:  Jeffrey MakinsonStephen Wallace
Conductor:  Matthew Owens
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Exon Singers
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
Length: 1 Hours 2 Mins. 

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Notes and Editorial Reviews

George Lloyd (1913–1998) was a curious case among modern composers. He wrote a successful opera, Iernin, in the 1930s, but suffered shellshock and general trauma in World War II. As a result, he stepped away from composing for a number of years, and when he returned he had abandoned opera, instead composing 12 symphonies, seven concertos, and some large-scale works for chorus and orchestra. This Requiem is the first work of his that I have encountered that is scored only for chorus and organ, and it was Lloyd’s final work. Inscribed “Written in memory of Diana, Princess of Wales,” Lloyd was almost certainly also aware of his own weakening health when he composed it. The score was completed in May 1998, and two months later he died.
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Lloyd uses the standard Requiem text, but omits the final “Libera me,” ending instead with “Lux aeterna.” The only vocal soloist called upon in the 54-minute score is a countertenor, a part sung with exquisite sensitivity here by Stephen Wallace, whose alto-like quality is perfect for the music, and is more richly colored than is the case with most countertenors. Much of Lloyd’s music tends to veer from the deeply poetic (most of his symphonic slow movements, for instance) to the exuberant and even bombastic or pompous (some of the finales). This Requiem is, however, mostly subdued and intimate in scale. Even at its climaxes, there is a restraint, an inward quality that dominates the entire score. At times sounding like a 19th-century choral work and at others sounding a few hundred years earlier because of its use of modal idioms, the piece nonetheless holds together—unified by Lloyd’s deep conviction about the kind of music he chose to write, and by the consistent level of inspiration. The brief Psalm 130 setting that fills out the disc, for a cappella choir, dates from 1995, and is lovely.

For those looking to acquaint themselves with the music of Lloyd, I’d recommend one of the symphonies as a starting place (No. 7 is perhaps the best), or The Vigil of Venus or Symphonic Mass if you would prefer choral works (both with richly colorful orchestral writing). But for those who already know and love Lloyd’s music, this makes a wonderful addition to his discography. That is especially true because of the accomplished and sensitive singing of the Exon Singers, a fine chamber choir from England. Conductor Matthew Owens provides impetus and shape to the performance. Organist Jeffrey Makinson may be a bit too discreet in his work—there are a few places where I wouldn’t mind a bit more impact from the organ. But on the whole, this is an excellent performance, as is the brief Psalm 130.

Rarely has a composer had a corporate friend as loyal over time as Albany Records has been for George Lloyd. Albany’s president/owner, Peter Kermani, is the rare enthusiast who actually is in a position to do something concrete for musicians in whom he believes—and the long string of Lloyd recordings on Albany’s label is something for which we can all be grateful.

FANFARE: Henry Fogel
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Works on This Recording

Requiem by George Lloyd
Performer:  Jeffrey Makinson (Organ), Stephen Wallace (Countertenor)
Conductor:  Matthew Owens
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Exon Singers
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1998 
Psalm 130 by George Lloyd
Conductor:  Matthew Owens
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Exon Singers
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1995 

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