EMI Classics was once known as a bulwark of the staid and conservative
classical music tradition. In recent years they have moved out
of their long-held mold not only to assemble one of the world’s
most impressive stables of young artists, but into some adventuresome
and fascinating repertoire choices. This disc of works by Jon
Lord, known to many a rock fan as the co-founder of Deep Purple,
is cause for rejoicing.
an era when most composers can only manage to assemble collections
of sound effects, it is refreshing indeed to hear music that
is in many ways all things to all people. Jon Lord is obviously
versed in his native land’s traditions, as there are ample slices
of the serenely melodic English Pastoral School in these two works. And yet, he manages
to intersperse elements of jazz, a goodly sprinkling of dissonance,
and some jarring rhythmic gestures into two works that will,
I hope, become regular guests on the world’s concert stages.
To his eternal credit, he avoids the episodic style of writing
that is to these ears, the downfall of many a young composer’s
piano concerto, based on a poem by D. H. Lawrence is
highly programmatic. Lord makes every attempt to reflect the
words of the 1918 poem Piano. Thus he creates moments
of tranquil beauty in which the orchestra is every bit as much
the soloist as the pianist. Then there are more sonorous passages
that are reminiscent of the busy and thundering textures of
Rachmaninov. And, not to let go of his roots as a blues man,
there are rollicking displays of technical prowess that make
heavy demands on the soloist, and startle the listener out of
a reverie or two. All of these devices live under a structural
framework that is easy to follow, and which belies the composer’s
long experience as a popular song writer. There is much in this
music to grab and hold onto.
and orchestra team up nicely here and it is especially gratifying
to hear them stay out of each other’s way when the score calls
for such behavior. Nelson Goerner knows how to turn an elegant
phrase, and the pearly beauty he creates in his softer playing
is most becoming. No slouch when it comes to hammering out a
tune, he can pour on the sound when he needs to. The most impressive
facet of his playing is his ability to keep all things in proportion
and pull off a performance that leaves the listener anxious
for what he’ll hear next.
on the program is the colorful Disguises; portraits in
sound of some of the composer’s close friends, the entire work
being dedicated to the late lamented Sir Malcolm Arnold. The
work is a kaleidoscope of contrasts, each movement reflecting
vividly the distinct personality of the person being portrayed.
Stylistically the music runs in a steady progression from Vaughan
Williams to Britten and even to Shostakovich, but in general
tone, it is always lush and romantic. It is obvious that this
rock star knows his classical literature, and has managed to
assimilate his vast reference pool into a fresh and original
voice of his own.
Disguises is given a first rate performance by the
a band which I had heretofore not heard. They are a welcome
addition to any listener’s options! How splendid it is to hear
such well crafted music for a change. One can hope that EMI
will take it upon themselves to give us more of Mr. Lord’s works
in the very near future.
by Patrick Gary and Rob