George Lloyd, Albany Records
and Albany Records (UK)
In 1984, George Lloyd was commissioned to write his 11th Symphony by Peter Kermani, President of the Albany Symphony. The story of that commission, which led to the incorporation of Albany Records and its sister company Albany Records (UK), is related here by Dr. Herbert Pauls in his book Two centuries in one - Musical Romanticism and the Twentieth-century.
(note: Draft to be approved by Dr Pauls.)
" Other owners of large independent classical record labels are not far removed from Heymann’s personal musical tastes. One of these is Peter Kermani, who is president of the fine Albany Symphony (located in the city of Albany, New York). Kermani and some of his colleagues discovered that they enjoyed George Lloyd’s (1913-1998) big romantic symphonies so much that they decided to start their own label, Albany Records, in 1987specifically for the initial purpose of making Lloyd’s music more readily available to the record-buying public.
This fascinating story is related in more detail in their catalogue description of Lloyd’s Symphony No. 11, a work composed as recently as 1986: Here’s the work that started it all. Back in 1977 Albany Symphony president Peter Kermani heard a BBC broadcast of Lloyd’s Symphony No. 8 which absolutely enthralled him. When an opportunity struck in 1984, he dispatched Albany Symphony manager Susan Bush to London to commission a new symphony, which resulted in the wonderful Symphony No. 11 from George Lloyd. This present writer was at the premiere on October 31,1986 and, like the rest of the audience, was absolutely captivated by the work; a piece that blended both thrills and repose, and pageantry and sentimentality-plus many memorable tunes (imagine, in this day and age, a third movement which was an elaborate and kaleidoscopic waltz!). We all believed that George Lloyd was England’s greatest musical secret revealed. This work, along with several of his other symphonies, was initially released on Conifer, but Kermani and Bush were eager to make Lloyd the cornerstone of a new recording venture called Albany Records.”
As of 2012, ten Lloyd CDs are still listed among Albany’s top 80 sellers – a vindication of John Ogdon’s valiant advocacy in Great Britain during the 1960s and 1970s. At that time, Ogdon had introduced Lloyd’s First Piano Concerto, which the BBC aired. (In the late 1960s, the BBC broadcast the premiere of Lloyd’s First Piano Concerto in a performance by Ogdon. An archival recording of that historic event was posted on YouTube, but has since disappeared.) Later, Ogdon also convinced Glock, the strongly modernist oriented controller of BBC Radio 3, to broadcast more of Lloyd’s music, and the BBC finally relented with the Eighth Symphony in1977. That 1977 broadcast, then, was the crucial event that serendipitously introduced Kermani to Lloyd’s music and, ultimately, to the founding of the biggest American independent classical record labels.
To this day, a total of 27 George Lloyd CDs (including twelve symphonies, four piano concertos, concertos for violin and cello, choral works and sundry piano and chamber works) occupy a central place in the Albany CD catalogue, both as an aesthetic statement and (as their list of best-sellers indicates) in terms of sales as well. The case of George Lloyd provides a good illustration of the fact that commerce and artistic idealism are not necessarily as mutually exclusive as High Modernist philosophy would always have us believe.
Despite its initial focus on the living British composer George Lloyd, Albany Records soon branched off into what was to become their main future task, which was to record twentieth century American music. Not surprising, given the Albany team’s fondness for Lloyd’s music, they immediately began devoting themselves primarily to recording the works of the twentieth century American moderate romantic/neoclassical stream, including Harris, Schumann, Menin, Gillis, Diamond, and Morton Gould. Also prominently featured were many populist operas by composers such as Menotti, Robert Ward, Carlisle Floyd and Douglas Moore. Each of these composers has long enjoyed frequent performances across the United States over the last few decades, especially at the more regional and college levels. We will recall that Carol Oja had described such composers as representing a romantic stream of composition that “meandered” through the entire twentieth century while modern developments passed them by.
Albany’s policy of recording the conservative stream of contemporary music has found eager and willing connoisseur support. It is not at all surprising that, due to their timely initiative, they have now grown into one of the largest of all independent record labels, along with Chandos, Hyperion, BIS, cpo and Naxos.
In a 1999 interview article with Kermani (undertaken as part of a much larger article surveying the broader American classical recording scene), critic Steve Smith summarized the position of Albany Records in the general world of classical music: Kermani points to the examples of the British labels Chandos and Hyperion as being analogous to his goals for Albany, recording important but neglected music by lesser known composers to give a fuller, truer representation of a nation’s native music: “There’s just so much gorgeous American music that is not brought before the public,” he says, “and it’s a crying shame.” And with Albany, Kermani is in the serious business of acquainting record buyers with the music that’s been missing from their lives. As Smith relates, Kermani and his colleagues clearly believe in the historical significance of the kind of music they are advocating. “We’re talking about the most important part of the American repertoire,” Kermani insists. “We never are going to be able to determine how we are going to exist in the future and the present if we don’t pay proper homage to the past. That, I think, is the mission of Albany Records.”
Kermani’s preferred repertoire is unapologetically mainstream rather than esoteric or maverick, to use a term that has recently popularity in the American concert world. His company therefore makes available to the curious music lover a vast repository of repertoire that was historically disparaged and marginalized in many important textbook overviews of American music, including those by Gilbert Chase and Wilfrid Mellers. "
Reprinted from Two centuries in one - Musical Romanticism and the Twentieth-century by Dr. Herbert Pauls.
Albany Records (UK)
Coincidentally with the commission for 11th Symphony and the formation of Albany Records, George Lloyd enlisted the help of his nephew William Lloyd and together they formed Albany Records (UK) to manage European distribution and to collaborate with Peter Kermani and Susan Bush in completing the complete cycle of recordings. The two companies are financially and structurally independent of each other, although they share a name and a catalogue.