REVIEW / Waiting for something to happen: Robert Maycock finds Jonathan Lloyd's Tolerance something more than bearable

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The Independent Culture
There is fun and puzzlement in listening to Jonathan Lloyd's music. Most of the time it sounds laconic and low-keyed, but it has strangely addictive qualities as the sharply characterised little phrases tease the ear with their constantly shifting recombinations, and worm their way into the mind. They seem to be waiting for something. Sometimes it just never arrives, and you feel as if you have been playing games with a smiling sphinx. In other pieces, the music will eventually gather its forces and strike out. But there's always something held back, an obsessional quality hinted at rather than fully exposed - which only makes the fascination stronger.

The music has been gradually making friends, without becoming fashionable or widely played, and it was a pity that when the London Philharmonic had a mini-celebration at the Royal Festival Hall on Thursday they made so little fuss. As well as the premiere of Tolerance, claimed as the first collaborative commission between the South Bank and its resident orchestra, they put on an early evening performance of Lloyd's Symphony No 5, which would surely have been better supported if more of the addicts had known about it. This small- group piece had an absorbing, neatly delivered performance from a septet that included members of the London Philharmonic Youth Orchestra. The music itself gets up to ear-tickling tricks and leaves you feeling that it's all foreplay: the moment the build-up reaches a peak, it just stops. Its strength is in its sound-images, which are obstinately hard to forget.

Tolerance, which opened the main concert with a much bigger crowd, spends 15 of its 20 minutes enjoying itself in the same kind of way. There's more variety, though, and a sense of purpose is maintained through some prodigious inventions - a genuine, non-comic, high-lying tuba solo, and some haunting subdued chords and growls from trombones, stick firmly in the memory. The title is supposed to refer to the nature of orchestral life, though later on the music took on more of the word's scientific sense, seeking the limits beyond which breakdown occurs. Timpani test them, three reiterated cool-jazz chords make the threat overt, and this time violence breaks out. After catharsis, poetic mystery: eventually, Tolerance makes one of Lloyd's most powerful statements since the Symphony No 4 exploded into life at the Proms six years ago.

Fine detail and a hot-line to the senses continued as Frank Peter Zimmermann played the third violin concerto of Saint-Saens. His unforced, pacy precision and nerve- end reactions, full of delicious nuances of phrasing and rhythm, were just right for the piece and a welcome change from the US- trained power play that dominates the international concerto circuit. Franz Welser-Most drew reposeful support from the orchestral strings, but the violin's intimate dialogues with solo woodwind brought the greatest heights of pleasure.

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