LLOYD: Symphony No. 11
Albany Symphony Orch/George Lloyd, cond.

WEINGARTNER: Lustige Overture, Op. 53. Symphony No. 3, Op. 49.
Basel Symphony Orch/Marko Letonja, cond.
cpo SACD 777 100 TT: 75:47

NAUMANN: Betulia Liberata (Oratorio in two parts)
Markus Schäfer, Hans Jörg Mammel, tenors; Nele Grams, Salomé Haller, sopranos; Harry van der Kamp, bass; Rheinische Kantorei; Das Kleine Konzart/Hermann Max, cond.
cpo SACD 777 063 (2 disks) TT: 95:31

Albany Records is to be saluted for their fantastic program of recording music of British composer George Lloyd (1913-1998). Lloyd is one of the most unjustly neglected composers of the 20th century. Charles Gerhardt, who conducted RCA's Classic Film Score series and countless recordings for Reader's Digest, often mentioned Lloyd to me as a composer whose work he admired greatly ("now that's music!"). Gerhard never had the opportunity to record any of his music, although he heard much of it thanks to isolated BBC broadcasts and Albany Records which recorded much of it. Lloyd's twelve symphonies and many other works are performed by first-class orchestras, soloists and conductors, including many recordings conducted by the composer. Each disk is a valuable addition to any collection of symphonic music. Now we have the opportunity to hear the magnificent Symphony No. 11, commissioned by the Albany Symphony and recorded immediately after the premiere Oct. 31, 1986. In five movements, it contains dynamic, surging moments as well as a pensive slow movement and a dazzling scherzo. It's a terrific symphony beautifully played by the expert Albany Symphony under the composer's direction. The recording always was first-class sonically; now on SACD it sounds even better particularly in spatial representation of the orchestra. This is a major release. Get it!

After the glories of George Lloyd's symphony, music of Felix Weingartner sounds particularly prosaic. cpo is recording many of the conductor's works, and this is Vol. 4 in their series. We've already mentioned Volume II (REVIEW) and Volume III (REVIEW). What was said there also applies to this disk. Many notes, little substance. As before, Marko Letonja and the fine Basel orchestra do what they can, and the sound is fine.

Another rather odd choice for SACD issue is cpo's release of Johann Gottlieb Naumann's oratorio Betulia Liberata. Written to a text by Pietro Metastasio written in 1734, it is based on the Old Testament Book of Judith and liberation of the city of Betulia from the Assyrian siege because of Judith's plot for Giuditta to behead the general Holofernes. At the conclusion, Giuditta warns everyone of human vices of which pride is the worst. The premiere was in Dresden Court Chapel Holy Saturday 1805, four years after the composer's death, and there have been few performances since that time. One can only respect the dedication of all concerned in this recorded representation, and doubtless those interested in 18th century music will be very pleased with this fine performance which is very well recorded. There's a complete libretto and profuse program notes by Klaus Pietschmann. The set sells for the price of two SACDs; there is plenty of room for additional similar repertory which perhaps would have made the set more appealing to collectors.

R.E.B. (August 2006)