Sir Malcolm Arnold Conducts Deep Purple and the Royal Philharmonic in Jon Lord’s Concerto for Group and Orchestra at the Royal Albert Hall, 1969

This is absolutely weird, but Mister Grumble, who’s of an age and knows everything about English Progressive Rock, had no idea this piece existed. (He attributes it to having been distracted at the time of the 1969 concert, getting out of the US Army as he did, after spending 13 months overseas.) So when I played the live recording for him for the first time on Sunday he went to the moon.

The Concerto for Group and Orchestra was composed Jon Lord, lyrics by Ian Gillan. It was first performed by Deep Purple and the RPO conducted by Malcolm Arnold on 24 September; the record came out that December. The performance at the Royal Albert Hall was the first ever combination of rock music and a complete orchestra and paved the way for other rock/orchestra performances.

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“La Valse” by Maurice Ravel, Played by the Orchestre National de France, Conducted by Leonard Bernstein

I haven’t got the date for this concert but Bernstein’s hair is silvery so I’ll guess it’s from the late 80s.

Ravel described his work:

Through whirling clouds, waltzing couples may be faintly distinguished. The clouds gradually scatter: one sees at letter A an immense hall peopled with a whirling crowd. The scene is gradually illuminated. The light of the chandeliers bursts forth at the fortissimo letter B. Set in an imperial court, about 1855.”

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Bonny John conducted this very piece about two weeks ago at his old school, the Royal College of Music, and spoke about Ravel (as well as Ralph Vaughan Williams) in this podcast. He said “La Valse” is about social disintegration. O-kay…

Thanks to Mark Doran for pointing me to his posting comparing Ravel’s piano score of “La Valse” to his, Ravel’s, own orchestration. Part 2 to follow…

Pete Townshend’s Dad Cliff and The Squadronaires Perform “Rock’n’Roll Boogie”, 1956

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From Who I Am: A Memoir by Pete Townshend (Harper, 2012):

“In 1945 popular music had a serious purpose: to defy postwar depression and revitalize the romantic and hopeful aspirations of an exhausted people. My infancy was steeped in awareness of the mystery and romance of my father’s music, which was so important to him and Mum that it seemed the centre of the universe. There was laughter and optimism: the war was over. The music Dad played was called Swing. It was what people wanted to hear. I was there. …”

The Squadronaires “Rock’n’Roll Boogie” 1956

As the son of a clarinettist and saxophonist in the Squadronaires, the prototypical British Swing band, I had been nourished by my love for that music, a love I would betray for a new passion: rock‘n’roll, the music that came to destroy it.”

The Rio Grande by Constant Lambert, Broadcast Live from the Royal Albert Hall, 12 September 1959

A very nifty, lively, jazzy modernist piece written by Constant Lambert (The Who manager Kit Lambert’s dad) in 1927. Australian virtuoso Eileen Joyce, who famously played the heart-wrenching Rachmaninoff in the film Brief Encounter, is at the piano here. County Antrim-born Jean Allister, contralto soloist, joins her with the BBC Symphony Orchestra and the BBC Chorus. At the podium is Sir Malcolm Sargent.

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Composer-novelist Anthony Burgess, in his autobiography Little Wilson and Big God (Burgess’s given name was John Anthony Burgess Wilson) wrote, “Lambert, who admired Duke Ellington and proclaimed his harmonic roots in Frederick Delius (who in his turn had taken them from Debussy), was a fearless reconciler of what the academies and Tin Pan Alley alike presumed to be eternally opposed. I was present at that first performance, and so was my father. And, in 1972, on a plane from New York to Toronto, I found myself sitting next to Duke Ellington, who spoke almost with tears of the stature of Lambert, admitted that he had learned much from both Delius and Debussy, and expressed scorn for the old musical division, which had been almost as vicious as a colour bar. He had lived to see it dissolve and jazz become a legitimate item in the academic curricula.” [More Burgess on Lambert here.]

Ocean’s Kingdom, A 2011 Ballet Score by Paul McCartney, Co-Arranged and Conducted by John Wilson

I prefer the second movement but the entire piece is worthwhile.

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Just so you don’t think I’m always down on my darling lad, here’s John’s orchestration, written in 2002 when he was 30, of Howard Goodall’s score for the TV movie The Gathering Storm, a bit Eric Coatesish. And here’s the orchestration he wrote in 2000 when he was 28, of Richard Rodney Bennett’s music for the TV mini-series fantasy Gormenghast.

Sid Ramin and Red Ginzler’s Overture to Gypsy, Conducted by John Wilson

John Wilson shimmying like a brazen hussy at 4:00. This is the moment I fell in love with him, that lovely luscious moment I laid eyes on him and thought, Baby, have I got your number…

John Wilson Gypsy Overture

The indication “burlesque strip stylewas actually written on the music right around this point. Both Ramin and Ginzler cut their teeth writing swing arrangements; lead trumpet in the original Gypsy pit was Dick Perry, late of the Tommy Dorsey Orchestra. Solo trumpet Mike Lovatt here lays it down fine. Some people obviously know something about burlycue. Composer Jule Styne was pleased with this orchestration. Once again, the BBC Proms 2012.