Do you accept that there is a divide between pop and classical? If there is a gap then there are quite a few bridges thrown across the void. Think of the Concerto for Pop Group and Orchestra
by Jon Lord (as realised through Deep Purple, the RPO and Malcolm Arnold), the Beatles Piano Concerto (Rutter), long before that Frankel’s 1930s symphony for dance band and in the 1920s Holbrooke’s flapper dances. In another vein Frank Zappa’s experimental classical pieces have been recorded by DG. There’s no shortage of two-way traffic. Soft Machine played at the BBC Proms in 1970 and The Nice, The Moody Blues and Procol Harum have appeared with orchestras. This was no doubt to the financial benefit of the orchestra’s bank accounts. More recently both Sting and Peter Gabriel have had concert tours with full symphony orchestras. Frank Martin, from the undeniably seriously classical realm, wrote Ballades des Pendus
from Poèmes de la Mort
including parts for three electric guitars. Pop figures have written classical pieces - pre-eminently Paul McCartney in his Liverpool Requiem
, Standing Stone
and Ecce Cor Meum
. Jon Lord (of Deep Purple) has produced three substantial pieces: Durham Concerto
, To Notice Such Things
and Boom of the Tingling Strings
. Not so very long ago Naxos recorded Seven – Suite for Orchestra
by Tony Banks (Genesis). Mention of Genesis swings us neatly to the business in hand.
With the present CD Tolga Kashif returns to embrace pop culture in The Genesis Suite
. The Queen Symphony
– see review below – was his last celebrity commission in this direction. Interesting that Kashif now side-steps the ‘symphony’ label and opts for what classical enthusiasts will see as the less cohesive. More miscellaneous and modest structural expectations associated with the Suite.
If you are expecting direct Genesis references with drum kits, keyboards and Fenders then you will have to look elsewhere. As with The Queen Symphony
Kashif has taken the melodies and rhythmic foundations of various Genesis classics and used them as an anchor, as inspiration and as a launching point.
The Genesis Suite
comprises seven movements:-
1. Land Of Confusion/Tonight, Tonight, Tonight (London Voices) [7:36]
2. Ripples (Freddy Kempf) [9:47]
3. Mad Man Moon - Fantasia Concertante for violin and orchestra (Tomo Keller) [16:42]
4. Follow You Follow Me (Caroline Dale) [6:29]
5. Fading Lights [12:13]
6. Entangled [7:26]
7. Undertow/Blood On The Rooftops (London Voices) [12:45]
The first movement is blazingly grand – just as filmic as The Queen Symphony
but here making much more extensive use of the choir over the top of the orchestra. There’s a crackingly driven rhythm which never lets up – goaded by rapping insistent wood-block reports. The rafters shake and the fall of the dust is blown around by the power. One thinks of disparate influences here: a Clannad quality to the voices and even Carmina Burana
. Freddy Kempf is at the centre of the next movement. This is more reminiscent of say L’Onde
, The Piano
and a Claude Lelouch film score – all in a swelling and flowing wash of delectable sentimentality rising to Grieg-like majesty. The third movement is an impassioned concert-piece for solo violin and orchestra. Again this is smoochily sentimental – starry stuff. Tomo Keller keeps his eye on the ball though a less tremulous tone for the end would have been an improvement. Follow You Follow Me
has the cellist Caroline Dale in emotional duet-dialogue with Keller. It’s saturated romance – a love-song for two - not by one about a supine other. Leaving soloists we move to Fading Lights
with its shimmering grandeur, pastoral relaxation and broader pace. The meditatively rhapsodic Entangled
returns us to piano (presumably Kempf) but this time minus orchestra. It offers an island of repose and has parallels with but at a more gentle pace than Ripples
. This prepares the way for the finale. This lets the orchestra and choir rip in pounding optimism and Bernstein-exuberance. Peace is found in a soothing gentle gradient to silence. Kashif is confident enough to end this massive sequence in this way rather through a heaven-assaulting climax.
Tolga Kashif will launch The Genesis Suite
in concert at the premiere on 11 October 2010, at London’s Barbican. He will be joined by the London Symphony Orchestra, violinist Carmine Laurie (leader of the LSO), cellist Caroline Dale and pianist John Lenehan.
This is another lavishly enjoyable and sentimental extravaganza taking pop music classics as point of launch rather than root structure.
KASHIF (b. 1962)
The Queen Symphony - A symphony in six movements
inspired by the music of Queen
London Oratory Boys' Choir/Michael McCarthy
London Voices/Terry Edwards
John Lenehan (piano); Nicola Loud (violin); Francois Rive (cello)
Royal Philharmonic Orchestra/Tolga Kashif
rec. Aug-Sept 2002, Abbey Road Studio 1, London. DDD
EMI CLASSICS 5573952 [57:43]
We did not cover this top-selling CD when first issued. As far
as I can recall we never received a review copy back in 2002.
The issue of The Genesis Suite on Kashif’s own Lightsong
label seemed the right occasion to put that right.
The movements of this symphony and the Queen songs on which
they are based are as follows:-
I: Adagio Misterioso - Allegro Con Brio (Radio Gaga - The Show
Must Go On - One Vision - I Was Born To Love You) [10:42]
II: Allegretto (Pastoral) (Love Of My Life - Another One Bites
The Dust - Killer Queen) [7:39]
III: Adagio (Who Wants To Live Forever? - Save Me) [7:23]
IV: Scherzo - Adagio - Scherzo (Bicycle Race - Save Me) [9:54]
V: Moderato - Allegro - Andante Maestoso (Bohemian Rhapsody
- We Will Rock You - We Are The Champions - Who Wants To Live
VI: Adagio (We Are The Champions - Bohemian Rhapsody - Who Wants
To Live Forever?) [9:11]
Kashif began work on it in 2000 and saw it through to premiere
in the Royal Festival Hall by the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra
on Wednesday 6 November 2002. It’s based on some dozen headline
songs including "Bohemian Rhapsody", "We Will
Rock You", "We Are the Champions" and "Who
Wants to Live Forever". It continues to enjoy currency
in the world’s great concert halls. Kashif himself was a graduate
of the RCM and studied with Derek Bourgeois. His conducting
prowess has not been restricted to his own music: in 1997 ASV
issued a CD of his conducting Richard Strauss’s Don Juan,
Tod und Verklärung and Horn Concerto no 1.
As for the Symphony, this is a full-on, ambitious, deeply indulgent
and lushly crafted orchestral extravagance in six movements.
If you warm to the luxury of the mainstream John Williams film
scores then expect to find this satisfying. If you have hopes
to hear a sort of concerto for a Queen tribute band set against
a heaving, wide-band orchestra then think again. Kashif has
instead taken some classic tracks and woven from their melodies
and rhythms a voluptuous canvas of filmic extravagance. The
style is akin to that of Williams but much more various. I have
to depart from Brian May where he claims parallels with Tchaikovsky
or Holst in terms of imagination and daring. That said much
of this is very enjoyable. The choirs take more of a supportive,
discreet yet muscular role – not as prominent as they are in
the outer movements of The Genesis Suite. They sing as
a group – there are no vocal solos. Styles vary between movements
but the Adagio (III) is almost Finzian with the solo violin’s
eloquence suggesting parallels with Introit. The first
movement has a decidedly exotic North-African twist amid the
cinema refulgence. John Lenehan’s orchestral piano plays its
part throughout without ever once coming near to piano concerto
grandstanding. When Bohemian Rhapsody puts in an appearance
in the fifth movement it does so in predictably Rossinian finery.
This is a grandly lavish work – a little over-inflated and sprawling
at times but most effective.