Jon LORD (b. 1941)
To Notice Such Things - a six-movement suite for solo flute, piano and string orchestra (As I Walked Out One Evening [4:15]; At Court [5:33] Turville Heath [3:01] Stick Dance [4:45] Winter of a Dormouse [5:33] Afterwards [3:56]) (2009)*
Evening Song [8:16]; For Example [9:12]; Air on a Blue String [6:33]
Jon Lord (piano); Cormac Henry (flute)*; Jeremy Irons (narrator)
Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra/Clark Rundell
rec. 30 September Ė 1 October 2009, The Friary, Liverpool
Premiere Recordings
AVIE RECORDS AV 2190 [54:25]

If you have heard the Durham Concerto (review; review) or the zanily named Boom of the Tingling Strings (review; review; review) you will know that since departing Deep Purple in 2002 Jon Lord has been gripped by classical composing. The earliest stirrings of this hunger go back to the 1969 and his Concerto for Group and Orchestra. It was premiered, filmed and recorded live at the Royal Albert Hall with Deep Purple and the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Sir Malcolm Arnold. The next year the BBC commissioned The Gemini Suite. In 1974 Sarabande followed and in 1997 came Lordís solo CD Pictured Within.

To Notice Such Things is clearly a very personal and affecting portrait of Lordís friendship with John Mortimer, CBE, QC (1923Ė2009). It traces its origins to the affectionate stage show, Mortimerís Miscellany. The title of the score is from the Thomas Hardy poem Afterwards which ended the show. The first movement, As I Walked Out One Evening is from the W.H. Auden poem and relates to the music that opened the revue. At Court picks up on Mortimerís days as the darling of the combative anti-establishment in the 1960s and 1970s. Turville Heath is where Mortimer lived and we are told that the movement gives an impression of Mortimer in his beloved garden. In extreme old age his legs began to fail him. Stick Dance is said to portray our heroís appreciation of a female companion jiving while Mortimer leans on his walking stick. Mortimer chose the dormouse to figure in his coat of arms. The Winter of a Dormouse is an attempt to describe Sir John's final months. Itís an affectionate and poignant farewell. The friendship throughout is echoed in the flute which voices Sir John. Lord is reflected in the solo piano role. These figures are played by the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestraís principal flautist Cormac Henry and by the composerís piano.

Counter-intuitively As I Walked Out One Evening has all the warm vernal freshness of the morning of the world. This is coupled with a peculiarly English contentment Ė an ecstasy in being there. The language is caught between the pastoral Vaughan Williams of the 1910s and 1920s and the Copland counterpart. At Court is part lightly serene and partly rushing cut-and-thrust carried by the flute with brusquely joyous strings. Turville Heath hints at a Gallic-Delian influence although the presence of the self-effacingly supportive piano pulls the rug out from under the comparison. This movement could easily join the host of short piano and orchestra miniatures by Bax, Milford and Armstrong Gibbs. Towards its close the gentle muse dances with an innocent smile. In Stick Dance there is a Shostakovich-like caustic serration to the string writing though this does relent to make way for curvaceous gliding and dancing of the flute. The Winter of a Dormouse touches on desolation but from its chilly shores the flute sings, invoking and reviving the delights of years gone by and of the changes wrought by the passage of the years. Interesting how the flute line remains succulent in tone but it is now more pensive. The flute solo curves down a gentle gradient into silence. Afterwards is the final movement for piano and orchestra though the flute also plays its part. The writing has a distinctly Finzian poignant reflective quality - the drowsy heat-haze of a summerís eclogue into which this sweetly tempered work fades.

The other four tracks are occupied by short pieces. Evening Song is for piano, alto flute, french horn and orchestra. Starting out as one of the pieces in Lordís Pictured Within, it lays convincing claim to the sentimental congeries entwining that ideal English sunset. This is a place in space and time where contemplation is by itself fully satisfying. The solo violin part reminded me of Finziís Severn Rhapsody. For Example is a piece for string orchestra and flute. Its origins lie in a small piano piece dedicated to Lordís friends the Trondheim Soloists and their Artistic Director and Principal Cellist, ōyvind Gimse. Itís a pensive essay with just that tincture of Grieg Ė a composer who was one of Lordís earliest favourites. Air on the Blue String is for flute and strings Ėa contented essay with a few gently stern moments to provide backbone. This too had its genesis in a piano solo. The disc ends with Jeremy Ironsí undemonstrative reading of Hardyís melancholic-fatalistic poem, Afterwards. The poem registers with even more depth. It is clothed with Jon Lordís piano line which provides a symbiotic modest commentary.

This is a well presented, recorded and annotated album and one that will please those who respond to Finzian pastoral melancholy. Quite an achievement.

Rob Barnett