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  The Swing of the Pend The Swing of the Pendulum HOT



The Swing of the Pendulum: George Lloyd and the Crisis of Romanticism by Peter Davison

It is over twenty years since the death of the composer, George Lloyd (1913-98), yet he still inspires widely differing opinions. Some consider him an anachronism; a romantic symphonist superseded by modernism, while others believe he was the true guardian of the British musical tradition.

In the 1930’s, Lloyd was a musical prodigy destined for great success. But, during the Second World War he joined the Royal Marines to protect the Arctic convoys, where he suffered serious injury. Medical experts believed he would ever recover yet, aided by his wife Nancy, he healed himself using hypnosis and other unconventional techniques. 

After the war, Lloyd returned to composition, but his expressive style was rejected by the musical establishment. Retreating from public life, he spent twenty years growing mushrooms and carnations in Dorset, with little prospect of performances or commissions. Then, in 1972, with the support of the pianist John Ogdon, Lloyd’s reputation began a renaissance, which led to a successful association with the Albany Symphony Orchestra in the USA. 

This period of his life produced award-winning recordings of all his major works, many of which Lloyd also conducted. In a career lasting over sixty years, Lloyd’s output was substantial, encompassing three operas, twelve symphonies, four concertos for piano, two for violin and one for cello. There are works for brass band, several orchestral tone poems, virtuoso piano pieces and dramatic choral works, including the Symphonic Mass (1991), considered by many to be his masterpiece.

Today, emotional expression in classical music is accepted once more, so that it is the right time to re-evaluate the life and work of George Lloyd who retains a loyal following, despite his mixed critical reception. His record company has sold over 100,000 CDs, and his manuscript scores have been purchased by the British Library. A complete cycle of his symphonies has also just been announced. Yet his music is still rarely broadcast and it, does not figure on any academic syllabus.

The George Lloyd Society has now asked the musicologist and concert programmer, Peter Davison, to take a fresh look at Lloyd’s music, his life and his opinions about philosophy, religion and aesthetics.

Peter Davison says: “I accepted the task with only a superficial knowledge of Lloyd and his music. It took me a while to remove several layers of false assumptions, but I was able to discover a modest man of great talent, someone who was determined to be himself regardless of the pressures placed upon him. His success late in life was richly deserved, and his music shows that a romantic outlook can still be relevant in the contemporary world.”

William Lloyd, the composer’s nephew and former business manager adds: “I am delighted with this new article which brings together in one place for the first time the essential facts of George’s life and work, alongside many new insights into the ideas and experiences which motivated him. It is clearer than ever that he was a man of thoughtful integrity and genuine musical talent, who was unable to fulfil his early promise for many years because he found that the world had changed around him.

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