The Exon Singers
Matthew Owens conductor

Lyrita SRCD.420

George Lloyd finished his final score, the Requiem for counter-tenor, choir and organ, just a month before his death in 1998. Dedicated to the memory of Diana, Princess of Wales, it is a work on a grand scale, lasting over 50 minutes, and it seems that Lloyd decided on organ accompaniment because he felt unable, through declining health, to write a fully orchestral score.

The organ is used imaginatively and in places suggests a full orchestra. On this recording the balance between organ and the choir (a chamber choir) works well, although I needed to turn up the volume to hear the quiet opening. The counter-tenor part is written low in the voice range and Stephen Wallace sings expressively, but often sounds tenor-like in his solo movements.

The choir sing with precision and energy and make a very blended sound. The tessitura in the soprano part is often set relatively high and the top notes ring out splendidly.

Lloyd sets the usual text of the Requiem without the final Libera me section. He wanted to end on a positive note and the Lux Aeterna begins with simple melodic lines and common chords, building to a climax which gives way to a quiet held chord over which the counter-tenor chants.

This is very reminiscent of the final pages of the Verdi Requiem, a favourite of Diana’s. Striking amongst the other movements are the Dies irae  (where Lloyd quotes the plainsong melody), the Confutatis (where the melody occurs again), the plangent Lacrymosa, and the joyous and exuberant Sanctus.

The George Lloyd story is probably well known. He had early success with his operas Lernin (1934) and The Serf (1938) but his melodic sound world fell out of favour as the musical establishment embraced the avant garde. His health suffered after he nearly drowned serving in the Royal Marines during the second world war, and, as his works were not generally being played, he retired to Dorset with his wife to take up mushroom growing.

Then in 1977 a broadcast of his Symphony no 8 on Radio 3 brought in a flood of requests for more of his music and Lloyd began writing again. This Requiem and the setting of Psalm 130, also on this disc, form part of this late flowering. 

I was pleased to read that Lloyd’s complete recordings, formerly available on Albany Records, will be released by Lyrita, beginning with issues this year.

Review by Ronald Corp