Though best known as a founding member of the rock band Deep Purple, keyboardist Jon Lord has also had something of a career as a composer of concert music. Back in the late 1960s he combined his talents to write Concerto for Group and Orchestra, which can be heard in a live 1969 Deep Purple performance from Royal Albert Hall, available on Warner Brothers CD and DVD-Audio. This work is still considered one of the best crossover compositions ever penned.
Theres nothing of rock in these newer pieces, nor are they particularly imitative and bland, words one might use to describe Paul McCartneys classical music efforts. Lords music is genial and charming, well constructed, and at times downright lyrical. The Boom of the Tingling Strings was inspired by the poem "Piano" by D. H. Lawrence and is a four-movement piano concerto. There are passages that remind one of Prokofiev, Bartók, and Ravel, but if theres one single influence on Lords music it is that of his mentor, Sir Malcolm Arnold, the late English composer and conductor on the live recording of the earlier Concerto for Group. This is quite evident in the second movement, with its jazz polytonality. Lords colorful writing for the orchestra, especially the percussion instruments, also seems inspired by Arnolds pithy orchestrations.
Disguises, the filler piece for string orchestra, might be even better the concerto. Divided into three movements, each describing a different person (Arnold is the subject of the first one, Lords late mother the second, and an undisclosed friend the third), the composition is full of energy and genial wit, with a middle movement of profound eloquence and beauty. All of the performers do justice to their parts, and the recorded sound is rich, warm, and detailed. The rapid interplay between piano and various percussion instruments is perfectly balanced.
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