At Barnes & Noble the other day, I picked up a copy of the November 2012 International Record Reviewfor an article about the composer Thomas Adès. But I noticed a CD review for a new recording: “Concerto for Group and Orchestra” by Jon Lord.
I still have my LP of the premier of this piece, at Royal Albert Hall in 1969. The group was Deep Purple, for which Lord (on the far left in this picture) was the keyboard performer and leader for many years, and the orchestra was the Royal Philharmonic conducted by Malcolm Arnold, whose name I didn’t know when I bought the record in ’72 but who I now know was a distinguished composer and symphonist. I also didn’t realize at the time that this was the first Deep Purple LP with the group’s famous “Mark II” lineup. I’d already purchased their albums “In Rock” and “Machine Head,” as well as their first album with the original lineup, “Shades of Deep Purple.” Also, singer Ian Gillan, with his strong voice and famous ability to scream on pitch, was Jesus on the “Jesus Christ Superstar” concept album. All in all, Deep Purple was certainly a group that I loved and played a lot during my teenage years.
Lord composed numerous classical pieces over the years, and as the reviewer notes, his death this past summer (at the age of 71) lends a sad “full circle” quality to this new release, since the Concerto was an early effort of this kind. The reviewer writes, “The success of the Concerto rests on Lord’s highly effective use of a simple dialectic: group and orchestra opposing each other in the first movement, complementing each other in the second then achieving a new and indissoluble union in the finale…” The work “blazed a trail which neither changing fashion nor the exigencies of fate should have denied its rightful place in post-war British music” (p. 42)