JON LORD: Concerto for Group and Orchestra – Blu-ray documentary+Pure Audio 5.1 of Concerto+CD (2013)Performers: Jon Lord – Hammond B-3, Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra cond. by Paul Mann/Fstom Vasilev, Joe Bonomasso & Steve Morse – guitars/Steve Balsamo, Kasia Laska & Bruce Dickinson – vocals/ Brett Morgan – drums/ Guy Pratt, bass Concerto: 1. Moderato – Allegro, 2. Andante, 3. Vivace – Presto Studio: Ear Music/Eagle Vision EVB334699 [9/3/13] Director: Jon Lord Video: 16:9 1080i HD color Audio: English PCM stereo; Concerto: Pure Audio DTS-HD MA 5.1 (96K/24bit) All region codes Extras: Interview with Paul Mann, Interview with Marco de Goeij, Orchestral recording sessions, Concerto in 5.1 Pure Audio Length: 175 minutes total Rating: ****½
(Don’t be concerned that the cover doesn’t show the blue outline of all Blu-ray discs – oddly that’s the way it appears all over the Internet.) Jon Lord was one of the pioneers in the fusion of rock and classical/baroque forms, and like a number of other British rock musicians had begun music studies in the classical field prior to making the discoveries that turned them to blues, pop, rock, psychedelia etc. The young founder of and organist for Deep Purple created a three-movement 45-minute work for, originally, his rock group Deep Purple and a symphony orchestra, who would each have a musical struggle for superiority in a work featuring Lord’s B-3 riffs and some soaring electric guitar bits. The work was debuted in 1969 with the Royal Philharmonic and Lord played it over 30 times with different orchestras and conductors all over the world. Somehow after a performance at The Hollywood Bowl, the Concerto’s score was completely lost. By 1999, a young Dutch composer named Marco de Goeij had successfully transcribed the entire Concerto from one of the recordings, and an Albert Hall 30th Anniversary performance of it could take place with the London Symphony and Malcolm Arnold conducting (which is available on DVD.) (That was reviewed in an earlier edition of AUDIOPHILE AUDITION and is no longer in the Archives, but we reviewed Lord’s piano concerto recording in 2008. We’ve also reviewed many Deep Purple videos and CDs.)
With all these performances, Jon Lord constantly honed and improved the score while onstage, and became excited about the possibility of having a new and definitive recording of the definitive version of the score. Working with de Goeij and Mann they came up with and financed the final version and used the Liverpool Philharmonic (who had performed it before) for the orchestra. They added three vocalists (one from Iron Maiden) and three electric guitarists, one of them from what’s left of Deep Purple, from which Lord had retired from in 2002.
Jon Lord was heavily involved in this production, and got to hear and approve the final mixes shortly before he passed away from cancer in the summer of 2012. The Blu-ray opens with a “Making Of…” documentary on the history behind the Concerto and the recording sessions both in Liverpool and at Abbey Road Studios in London. Lord profusely thanks the Dutch composer for resurrecting the score and making this all possible. The interviews with Mann and de Goeij fill in some of the details of the production, but I wish there weren’t so many constantly repeated sections in the various extras—some of which are used even in the “Making Of…” documentary to begin with. I find this occurs with many bonus extras on discs, but never with the extras provided on Criterion releases. There are some cute scenes during the rehearsals: For example, after Lord throws off a particularly soupy-sounding run on his B-3, guitarist Guy Pratt says “We’ll be here all week. Try the veal.”
While it’s great to have this definitive hi-res surround recording of the complete Concerto, some Deep Purple and Lord fans have been disappointed that it is not a Blu-ray video of a live performance, but only Pure 1.5 Audio. Of course the sound is much enhanced over the 1999 DVD in Royal Albert Hall, and there are the interesting additions of the vocalists and guitarists, but conductor Malcolm Arnold is also fun to watch. The music in general is interesting, but I wasn’t fully sympathetic with the Dutch musician in putting in all his time and huge effort of transcribing the score. I think it would appeal more to Deep Purple fans than generic classical concerto fans. The contrasts between the rock and classical elements in the first two movements seem too blatant to work, and there are strong suggestions of Tchaikovsky and Sibelius in some of the orchestral writing. However, the finale seems to get it all together and blends the two opposing musical forces in an exciting fashion.