New Classical Tracks: A piano concerto by a veteran of classic rockby Julie Amacher, Minnesota Public Radio
Jon Lord, best known as part of the group Deep Purple, has also had a lifelong involvement with classical music. His new piano concerto is influenced by Bach and Dave Brubeck, and takes its title from D. H. Lawrence.
St. Paul, Minn. — A 1918 D.H. Lawrence poem titled "Piano" recently conjured up wonderful childhood memories for pianist Jon Lord.
"In the poem, the author sits under the piano as his mother plays." Lord said. "My mother didn't play the piano, in my case it was one of my father's sisters who played the piano very well, and I remember being entranced by what she did."
"So when I read the poem it rekindled that memory for me before television," Lord continued, "when we used to just make music -- from popular songs of the day to hymns to all kinds of stuff -- and that was very much a good memory of childhood."
Jon Lord is best known as a founding member of the British rock band Deep Purple. For nearly 40 years he's been composing music for orchestra in tandem with his rock career.
"I had been toying with the idea for some years in fact of writing a piano concerto to address my love of the piano, my love of the orchestra, and a real desire to try and say something about the piano in that kind of musical setting, but nothing had really given me the push I needed to actually get it started," said Lord.
"And then this poem came, and in that one single phrase, 'In the boom of the tingling strings,' which I think is such a gorgeous phrase," Lord continued. "I don't know if you've ever sat under a grand piano, but boom and tingling are two words that actually describe that sound world under there."
Lord says he knew right away that "Boom of the Tingling Strings" would be the title of his new concerto, which has a very autobiographical character. He says the second movement describes his move to London in 1960.
"I was very much influenced then, not so much by rock and roll -- although of course one had started to hear it and I loved it -- but the music that was really in my heart at that time was jazz," he said. "I loved Brubeck, and I loved the Modern Jazz Quartet, and so on. And the feel of London in those early '60s had this kind of joyous, wide-open sort of feel to it."
The influence of Bach is also prominent in this movement. Lord believes all musicians eventually come back to Bach, because of the mathematical purity and the emotional content of the composer's music.
After combing all of these complex influences, Lord realized he'd written a piece too difficult for him to play. Nelson Goerner takes on the challenge as soloist in this concerto, which is an homage to the concert pianist.
The second work on this recording is titled "Disguises." In this piece, Lord pays homage to three special people who were very good at disguising themselves -- a jovial friend he refers to only as "G.C."; his mother; and the late British composer Malcolm Arnold.
Lord first met Arnold in 1969, when the composer offered to conduct a concerto Lord had written for rock band and orchestra. They became good friends over the years, and occasionally Lord called Arnold for advice on string technique.
Several of Arnold's random teachings appear in the first movement of "Disguises," which paints an animated picture of a special person who was seminal in Lord's music career.
There's a six-note theme in the second movement that Lord believes was inspired by his mother the day after she died.
"Very often when dreadful things happen to you, the weather always seems to be cruelly wonderful, the sun is shining, the sky is a startling blue," said Lord. "And I came downstairs early knowing that the world had changed, and I had these six notes in my mind, and I imagined they came from my mom."
"So I sat at the piano and quite quickly I realized they had become a piece of music, and it became a short piece that was first played at her funeral a few days later," he continued. "hen over the next few years I reworked it for a string orchestra."
People who grew up with the rock band Deep Purple know Jon Lord for "Smoke on the Water" and other classic rock hits.
This new release gives us an even broader perspective of an artist, who like many music lovers, enjoys a diverse musical palette.