Brighton Festival Chorus 
Laszlo Heltay choir conductor
Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra
Guildford Choral Society 
Philharmonia Orchestra 
George Lloyd conductor


This latest release of choral music continues the excellent partnership between the Wyastone Estate and the George Lloyd Society which will see all of the old Albany discs released under the Lyrita label.

Lloyd had success before WWII with his operas The Serf and Lernin, but it was the problems with his Festival of Britain opera John Socman that pushed him back into the PTSD that he had suffered after the war. No vocal music appeared until The Vigil of Venus in 1980, and these two extraordinary works of the 1990s.

The Symphonic Mass, commissioned by the Brighton Festival, was written between 1990 and 1992 and had its première at the 1993 Brighton Festival. It is a magnificent work, probably one of the great glories of the English choral tradition. There is not a dud bar in it, not a bar of padding, not an extraneous note.

Like all of Lloyd’s music it is in late Romantic style untouched by the horrors of serialism or the avant-garde.  It is a heartfelt utterance that welcomes the listener in from the start and bids a fond farewell at the end. The highlight for me is the sixth movement which merges the Sanctus and Benedictus. The inclusion of a virtuoso part for sleigh bells is inspired and the sound of the boys’ choir sing multiple Osannas will, I guarantee, stay with you long after the end of the work.

A Litany of 1995 was commissioned by the adventurous and excellent Guildford Choral Society.  I am sorry to say it is the only work of his which escaped my CD collection, and I was bowled over listening to it. It is another large-scale work, but this time with extensive parts for solo soprano and baritone.

The work sets 12 of the 28 verses from John Donne’s eponymous poem. The poem is a complex one written when Donne was shifting allegiance from Catholicism to the Church of England. Missing out so much of it clearly neuters the poet’s argument and so it is probably better to listen to it as an aural journey. There is much to admire. The solo parts were specifically written for Janice Watson and Anthony Rolfe Johnson. 

But Jeremy White who sings here is magisterial in the part and is certainly no mere substitute. As expected, the soprano part fits Ms Watson’s voice like a glove. Her bell like high Gs sailing above the orchestra and chorus in the final moments are quite extraordinary. The chorus and orchestra under the octogenarian composer perform superbly and the recording is of demonstration class. 

These works are as good as anything by Vaughan Williams or Walton. Why, oh why are they not performed?!

Review by Paul RW Jackson