Today is Remembrance Sunday in the UK when we remember all those who gave their lives for the peace and freedom that some of us are fortunate to enjoy. Wilfrid Owen's poems from the First World War and the War Requiem of Benjamin Britten, which sets Owen's poetry, are two of the most moving tributes to the victims of war, and tonight (Nov 12) BBC Radio 3 are broadcasting the War Requiem, followed in the coming week by Owen's complete war poems. But today, as part of my remembrance, I turned to another Requiem by a little known English composer who was profoundly affected by his traumatic experiences in the Second World War.
George Lloyd was born in Cornwall in 1913, and achieved considerable success as an operatic composer in the 1930s when his opera Iernin enjoyed a long run in London, and he had an opera performed at Covent Garden when he was just 28. Lloyd served with the Royal Marines in the Second World War, and his ship was sunk by one of its own torpedos when protecting an Arctic convoy. Lloyd was one of just three survivors, and this dreadful experience caused him to abandon opera, and turn instead to orchestral and choral works.
He wrote twelve symphonies, and three were recorded by Lyrita in the early 1980s with Edward Downes conducting, and were released on superb sounding vinyl LPs which I still treasure. Sadly these recordings haven't yet made it into the rejuvenated Lyrita CD catalogue which I wrote about recently. I also have a 1984 LP of Lloyd's Fourth Piano Concerto played by Kathryn Stott with the composer conducting on the Conifer label.
The Requiem was George Lloyd's last work, and he only completed it two months before he died in 1998. It uses the Latin text, and was written for small chorus and counter tenor with only organ accompaniment as Lloyd (photo below) feared he would be unable to complete an orchestral score. This is one of his few works for counter-tenor, and this voice gives an etheral feeling to the work, while the bold organ writing underlines the spiritual dimension. Despite dating from the end of the 20th century this is not an avant garde work, and today the score's dedication 'Written in memory of Diana, Pricess of Wales' seems incongruous. The Requiem follows the Italian style, and moves between the modal and romantic. It ends optimistically with the Lux Aeterna, but both musically and philosophically it encourages reflection on the past, and that is entirely appropriate for Remembrance Sunday. There is no claim that Lloyd produced a masterpieces to rival Britten's, but with Requiems such as John Rutter's achieving such popularity it is difficult to understand why this fine work by George Lloyd is not better known.
* An excellent recording of George Lloyd's Requiem sung by the Exon Singers conducted by Matthew Owens is available from Albany Records, together with many other recordings of his works. Here is a 30" MP3 file from the Sanctus as a taster.
Now discover another very moving, and neglected, 20th century Requiem by taking An Overgrown Path to Dresden Requiem for eleven young victims.
George Lloyd is BBC Radio 3's Composer of the Week starting November 13th 2006. Any copyrighted material on these pages is included as "fair use", for the purpose of study, review or critical analysis only, and will be removed at the request of copyright owner(s). Report broken links, missing images and other errors to - overgrownpath at hotmail dot co dot uk