The Concerto for Group and Orchestra
The Concerto for Group and Orchestra is a concerto composed by Jon Lord, with lyrics written by Ian Gillan. It was first performed by Deep Purple and The Royal Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Malcolm Arnold on 24 September 1969 and released on vinyl in December 1969. After the score was lost in 1970, it was performed again in 1999 with a recreated score.
The 1969 performance was among the first combinations of rock music with a full orchestra, and paved the way for other rock/orchestra performances such as Procol Harum Live:
- In Concert with the Edmonton Symphony Orchestra (1972),
- Rick Wakeman's Journey to the Centre of the Earth (1974),
- Roger Waters' The Wall – Live in Berlin performance (1990),
- Metallica's S&M concert (1999).
The Concerto for Group and Orchestra is split into three movements.
First movement (Moderato – Allegro)
After an extended orchestral introduction, the group and orchestra work as separate blocks, trying to get dominance over the main theme and working as antagonists to each other. There are cadenzas for electric guitar and clarinet.
Second movement (Andante), with lyrics sung by Ian Gillan
This movement is based around two tunes that are played in various different arrangements by the orchestra and the group, individually and together. After a combined pop / blues version of the second tune, there is an organ cadenza followed by a quiet ending by the orchestra.
Third movement (Vivace – Presto)
Apart from Ian Paice's drum solo, the music combines the orchestra and group together in a "free for all". The movement alternates between 6/8 and 2/4 time signatures.
Original 1969 Royal Albert Hall Performance
The piece was first performed and recorded on 24 September 1969 in the Royal Albert Hall, London, by:
- Deep Purple
- Jon Lord: keyboards
- Ritchie Blackmore: guitar
- Ian Gillan: vocals
- Roger Glover: bass
- Ian Paice: drums
- The Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, conducted by Malcolm Arnold
- The Concerto for Group and Orchestra was first released on vinyl in December 1969 in the United States (Tetragrammaton) and in January 1970 in the United Kingdom (Harvest). These releases contained only the "Concerto", with the second movement broken in two-halves. Copies of the original US editions are rare as Tetragrammaton went bankrupt while the album was still being issued. In the following year, the Concerto became the only Tetragrammaton release to be reissued by Warner Bros., Deep Purple's new US label.
- On 4 April 1970, the Concerto was shown on British television as The Best of Both Worlds.
- The 1990s saw a CD release including the songs "Wring That Neck" and "Child in Time".
- In 2002 EMI released special edition DVD-A, SACD and 2-CD sets of Concerto for Group and Orchestra, featuring the entire program of music played that night.
- In 2003, a video recording of this concert was released on DVD. However, four and a half minutes of the 1st Movement are missing in this video, as it was taken straight from the BBC's 4 April 1970 broadcast of the event (see above). The edit was in the original BBC broadcast.
1970 Los Angeles performance
The Concerto was performed one more time, with the Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Lawrence Foster at the Hollywood Bowl on 25 August 1970, after which the score was lost.
Malcolm Arnold's views
In an interview for hospital radio in Huddersfield in 1970, shortly after the Royal Albert Hall performance, Arnold provided a positive take on the experience:
What strikes me about Deep Purple is their tremendous musical integrity. This is so refreshing in a commercial world. I loved working with them. They're thorough musicians. They're not trying to prove anything. They just like to play now and again with a Symphony Orchestra. They're not trying to prove any deep philosophical problem. They just want to write music that's enjoyable.
Ritchie Blackmore's views
In a 1979 interview with Sounds magazine, Blackmore said:
I was not into classical music then. I was very very moody and just wanted to play very very loudly and jump around a lot. I couldn't believe we were playing with orchestras. We kept getting lumbered playing with them. We started off in '68 – this is my opinion – as a relatively competent band with a lot to say but saying it all at the same time as each other. In '69 we went into the classical stuff because it was Jon Lord's big thing to write a concerto for group and orchestra. He was very sincere, but I didn't like playing it or respect the fact that we were doing it. The orchestra was very condescending towards us, and I didn't like playing with them, so it was one big calamity onstage. But Jon was happy with it and management was happy with it because we had a press angle, which I resented very much.
In 1970 I said, 'right, we're going to make a rock and roll LP. If this doesn't succeed I'll play in orchestras for the rest of my life', because Jon wasn't too into hard rock. Luckily it took off, so I didn't have to play with orchestras any more.
I love orchestras, chamber music—unaccompanied violin is my favourite. But I respected them too much, and we just weren't in the same calibre. I'd been playing 15 years at the time, and stuck next to some dedicated violinist who's been playing for 50 years just to give an angle to the press—it's insulting. That's why it started and ended very abruptly.
1999 Royal Albert Hall performances
On 25 and 26 September 1999, thirty years after its initial performance, the Concerto was again performed in front of a live audience in the Royal Albert Hall. To make this performance possible, a new score was created by Marco de Goeij by listening to the recording and watching the video of the 1969 performance.
- Deep Purple:
- Jon Lord: organ
- Steve Morse: guitar
- Ian Gillan: vocals
- Roger Glover: bass
- Ian Paice: drums
- Guest vocalists:
- Miller Anderson
- Sam Brown
- Ronnie James Dio
- The Steve Morse Band
- Dave LaRue: bass
- Van Romaine: drums
- The Kick Horns
- Simon Clarke: alto and baritone saxophones, flute
- Roddy Lorimer: trumpet and flugelhorn
- Tim Sanders: tenor and soprano saxophones
- The London Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Paul Mann
The programme consisted of:
- Four Scottish Dances (Malcolm Arnold), performed by the London Symphony Orchestra
- "Pictured Within", performed by Jon Lord and Miller Anderson
- "Wait A While", performed by Jon Lord and Sam Brown
- "Sitting in a Dream", performed by Roger Glover and Ronnie James Dio
- "Love Is All", performed by Roger Glover and Ronnie James Dio
- "Via Miami", performed by Ian Gillan
- "That's Why God Is Singing the Blues", performed by Ian Gillan
- "Night Meets Light", performed by The Steve Morse Band
- "Take It off the Top", performed by The Steve Morse Band
- "Wring That Neck", performed by Ian Paice & The Kick Horns
- Concerto for Group and Orchestra (Jon Lord, with lyrics by Ian Gillan), performed by Deep Purple and The London Symphony Orchestra
- "First Movement: Moderato-Allegro" (19:23)
- "Second Movement: Andante" (19:11)
- "Third Movement: Vivace-Presto" (13:09)
- "Ted the Mechanic", performed by Deep Purple and The London Symphony Orchestra
- "Watching the Sky", performed by Deep Purple and The London Symphony Orchestra
- "Sometimes I Feel Like Screaming", performed by Deep Purple and The London Symphony Orchestra
- "Pictures Of Home", performed by Deep Purple and The London Symphony Orchestra
- "Smoke on the Water", performed by the evening's entire ensemble
The recording of the concert was released on a double CD as Live at the Royal Albert Hall. A cut recording of the performance was also released on DVD, entitled In Concert with the London Symphony Orchestra.
Encouraged by the success of the 1999 performances, Deep Purple took the Concerto on tour, first performing it in South America with local orchestras, then in Europe with the George Enescu Philharmonic Orchestra, in Japan with the New Japan Philharmonic Orchestra, all conducted by Paul Mann.
40th Anniversary Performance
On 24 September 2009 Jon Lord joined the RTÉ Concerto Orchestra in the National Concert Hall, Dublin, Ireland to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the first performance of Concerto for Group and Orchestra. Also performed, were pieces from Jon Lord's solo career and a number of Deep Purple songs including an orchestral version of Child In Time.
2012 studio version
In October 2012, a studio version of the Concerto for Group and Orchestra was released.
The recording features the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Paul Mann. The soloists are Jon Lord (organ), Darin Vasilev (guitar in the 1st movement), Joe Bonamassa (guitar in the 2nd movement), Steve Morse (guitar in the 3rd movement), Steve Balsamo, Kasia Łaska, and Bruce Dickinson (vocals), Brett Morgan (drums), and Guy Pratt (bass).
The orchestral parts were recorded at the Philharmonic Hall, Liverpool on 1 and 2 June 2011.
The band parts were recorded in August and October 2011 and also in May 2012. The album was mixed at Abbey Road Studios in late May 2012. According to Paul Mann, Jon Lord heard the final master of the recording a few days before his death on 16 July 2012.
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Sources: wikipedia.org, timenote.info
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