Reviewer Dr. Wesley Britton: Dr. Britton is the author of four non-fiction books on espionage in literature and the media. Starting in fall 2015, his new six-book science fiction series, The Beta-Earth Chronicles, debuted via BearManor Media. For seven years, he was co-host of online radio’s Dave White Presents where he contributed interviews with a host of entertainment insiders. Before his retirement in 2016, Dr. Britton taught English at Harrisburg Area Community College. Learn more about Dr. Britton at his WEBSITE
Musician: Jon Lord
Musician: Jon Lord
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.
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