Martin Roscoe piano
Kathryn Stott piano
BBC Philharmonic Orchestra
London Symphony Orchestra
George Lloyd conductor


The piano was not George Lloyd’s instrument and thus he came to writing piano concertos later in his life. The composition of the four concertos spans the years between 1962 to 1970. He also found that the first two grew like Topsy, and instead of having three movements as would be usual, each is one long span covering 25 minutes and 32 minutes respectively. Piano concertos no 3 and 4 obey the usual order of movements and are large works, the third running for nearly 50 minutes.

A characteristic of each of the four is their bold opening orchestral tutti. It is from material heard at the outset that Lloyd begins his journey, and each of the concertos share passages of soaring melody with other sections which are overtly dramatic. The first concerto has a jagged melodic opening, and the piano seems to be in dialogue with the orchestra, trying to calm things down. It was written for John Ogdon who performed it in 1964. It has the title ‘Scapegoat’ which Lloyd does not explain as such, but suggests that it reflects events he has lived through.

We can feel that its five sections embrace a mood of unrest, particularly in the bleak, despairing quiet end. The second concerto (completed in 1960 but not performed until 1984) has an opening which Lloyd refers to as ‘Hitler dancing a jig’. There are hints throughout of military music with the use of side drum and percussion in the piano cadenza-like section.

The third concerto (1968) begins with music suggesting a Devil’s Galop in the style of Shostakovich, but the overall mood of the concerto is lighter, despite this being the last of the three concertos which can be seen as ‘war’ concertos. A bell tolls at the outset of the slow movement, and long melodic lines sweep to a climax. The Vivace third movement sounds more joyful than angry, but the composer explains that there are ‘tragic moments throughout…..some brightness here and there, but in the end we are left with despair’.

The fourth concerto (completed in 1970 but not performed until 1984) is more melodic on the whole than its predecessors, with a slow and sorrowful slow movement and a happy-go-lucky finale.

As will be seen above, the composer conducts all four concertos, and numbers 1 and 2 are played by Martin Roscoe (who gave the première of the second) and Kathryn Stott (who gave the première of numbers  3 and 4).

The four works are wonderful examples of Lloyd’s late flowering as a composer.

Review by Ronald Corp