Musician: Jon Lord

ASIN: B008U6Q94M

It’s a bit ironic that, within a week, two rock keyboard giants issued new albums drawing from their classical music roots. On Sept. 18, The Keith Emerson Band released The Three Fates Project where classical and rock forms are fused into a seamless whole. On Sept. 25, Jon Lord’s redone Concerto for Group and Orchestra came out and, sadly, was the last music Lord worked on before his premature death on July 16, 2012.

While Emerson’s album offers new material as well as fresh interpretations of     his early work with ELP (such as an extended “Tarkus”), Lord’s Concerto has a long history. In fact, when it was first performed in 1969, it was a trend-setter in the new vogue of having rock bands sharing the stage with orchestras. the December 1969 vinyl release billing Deep Purple and the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra was also the first album with the then new Deep Purple line-up featuring Roger Glover on bass and Ian Gillan on vocals, the singer contributing lyrics to several short passages in the Concerto.

After the score was lost in 1970, the Concerto had a second life beginning in 1999 when Deep Purple put out a new version, Live at the Albert hall, this time with Steve Morse on guitar. After that, the Concerto was performed by Purple, other bands, and by Lord with a number of international orchestras at least 30 times. Finally, in June 2011 Lord supervised the first studio recording of the Concerto after he felt he had honed and polished the three movements to his final satisfaction.

The first tracks were laid down with conductor Paul Mann and the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra with the rhythm section of Guy Pratt and Brett Morgan. Later in London, Lord added in other rockers including vocalist Bruce Dickinson and Purple’s Steve Morse. The result is, not surprisingly, very different from Keith Emerson’s approach to bringing classical and rock music together. The Three Fates Project is notable for having all the players, orchestral and rock, blended together with all instruments as integrated as possible. As demonstrated in the First Movement of Lord’s Concerto, he wrote his sections as alternating blocks of music. We first hear the strings, woodwinds, and horns, then the rock ensemble, then the orchestra again, and then another band passage. This is in the "concerto grosso" mold, that is, solo sections are intermingled in between the fuller passages developing Lord’s themes. Dynamics are key to the sound as very Romantic sections often fill the speakers followed by measures where the strings are as soft as no rock melody has ever been. It’s as if Lord wrote some parts for classical music fans, others for the young rock crowd.

And that difference in instrumentation may dictate who will enjoy this album most. If you’re an out-and-out Purple fan, this might not be your cup of tea. This is especially true for diehards who will miss the presence of the two Ians, Gillan and Paice. If you like your classical music kept traditional without hot guitar solos, this might not be the concert for you. But if you’re a music fan with an appreciation for all its forms, Concerto for Group and Orchestra is well worth at least one listen. Those familiar with previous versions will make their own compare/contrasts, likely preferring the new clarity and brightness of the studio sound, perhaps not so certain about some shortened sections and slower pace. Still, while live performances are likely to continue in the coming years, it’s hard not to determine this recording will be the definitive version of Lord’s lifelong passion.

Follow Here To Purchase Concerto for Group & Orchestra