– In Budapest on the 18th of this month, I am playing the Sarabande suite for the first time ever live. That is, in its entirety, and in the same running order as the original recording.
– I have of course played Gigue and Bourrée many times and occasionally Pavane and Sarabande, but this is the first time the suite has been done ‘whole’.
Recorded in Oer-Erckenschwick near Cologne in 1974 with the now defunct Philharmonica Hungarica orchestra conducted by Eberhard Schoener, the full suite comprises:
The original recording also featured Andy Summers on guitar (later with The Police), Pete York on drums, Mark Nauseef on percussion (later drums with Ian Gillan Band and Thin Lizzy) and Paul Karass on bass.
– I have taken the opportunity to brush-up the 1975 orchestrations, and have therefore also orchestrated Aria – which was played on piano and synthesizers on the recording, and Caprice which was just the group.
– The Finale too has had a make-over to allow the ‘parade of themes’ section which was done with tape-loops on the recording, to be played live. Had a lot of fun doing it too.
The complete Sarabande suite will be premiered in Budapest on September 18 and later performed also in Sofia on October 30 and in Essen on November 15.
– I will play it in the first half instead of Concerto for Group and Orchestra. I also have a couple of interesting surprises for the second half.
– from California to Oer-Erckenschwick
The Sarabande suite came into being through friendly prodding from German conductor Eberhard Schoener who had previously worked with Jon Lord on Gemini Suite and the Windows project.
– Eberhard came to me and said, ‘you must write another rock meets classic thing.’ I hate that phrase, but he kept on at me and at Tony Edwards, who was my manager at the time.
– I wanted to call the album Baroque’n’roll, but Eberhard wouldn’t let me. He said this was a joke and the album must be serious. But I don’t write serious music. I write from the heart, and I like the enjoyment factor to be part of it. There are little jokes throughout Windows and the Concerto for Group and Orchestra. In the Concerto there’s the big joke where the orchestra gets the little stupid tune and starts to run away with it and the band says, ‘right, that’s enough! Bam-bam-bam!’
– There are also little musical jokes in Sarabande, so I thought Baroque’n’roll was a good little title. But I think he was probably right. It was better not to call it that.
Writing on the beach
Sarabande was written in California during 1975.
– Almost immediately after Windows I’d gone off to live there. The first six months I was out there I lived just off Sunset Strip in Hollywood. I was only about a mile from the Whiskey a Go Go and my house became a sort of party central.
– People found out where I lived and as they were coming out of the Whiskey around four o’clock in the morning stoned out of their gourds, they would just turn up at my house. I thought I was going to kill myself there, so I moved out to the beach north of Malibu.
– I had this gorgeous condominium right on the beach. I lived alone and I loved that place. Living on the beach in California was one of the greatest times of my life. I was having a terrifically good time. I was free. My first marriage had broken up, I had very little responsibility. I was still quite young, I had a pocket full of money, and I was growing reasonably famous. I couldn’t have it much better than that really. Still I was reasonably prolific.
– I had this really crappy old upright piano in the window and I’d sit at the piano and look out at the Pacific Ocean. So Sarabande was pretty much written staring at the Pacific Ocean. [laughs]
– I came up with the idea behind the concept; a baroque dance suite written for group and orchestra. This was a hook on which to hang an idea, but the actual track Sarabande itself is not a sarabande. A sarabande is a slow stately dance in three-four. Sarabande the track is in three-four, but it doesn’t become a slow stately dance till the end.
– The Gigue is a gigue, and the track Bourrée was roughly the tempo of the bourrée, but when Eberhard first heard the Bourrée, he said he thought it sounded like ‘some sort of bauchtanze!’ – belly dance.
– I don’t really know what the Bourrée is, but I do know where it came from. I’d been listening to Bartok‘s Romanian Dances, and I was taken by that strange scale used in Romanian music. I’s one of my favourite pieces to play with an orchestra because it drives along so nicely once the piano settles in.
– That piano part was just a doodle I got from sitting there looking at the ocean. So I wrote it down and messing around with it over the next few days I got the chords to go with it. It was a little exercise in rhythm, but it worked out really well.
Recording in Germany
– Orchestrating the album I was right down to a deadline, because Eberhard and Tony Edwards had booked the Philharmonia Hungarica for September of 1975.
– Only the big four movements were orchestrated – the Fantasia, Sarabande, Gigue and Bourrée. I ran out of time so Caprice was not orchestrated, Pavane was just strings, and Aria was played with just piano and synthesizers. Strangely it all hangs together.
– There’s actually a missing movement from Sarabande. It was called Gavotte. I still have all the parts and the old scores for it. We didn’t have time to orchestrate it or record it, so it’s been sitting there half orchestrated ever since.
– We rehearsed in Munich at the Arabella house in the dungeon, the basement – and then we went up to Düsseldorf. It was late summer and it was hotter than hell. We stayed in Düsseldorf and recorded in Oer-Erckenschwick. Bless its little heart.
– That’s one of the lovely things about music. If it takes a view of the Pacific to help you to write something, it doesn’t really matter. It wasn’t about the Pacific in any way, shape or form.
Author Vince Budd has characterised Sarabande as ‘Jon Lord’s most winning individual achievement, a composition of outstanding quality, and arguably Jon Lord’s most approchable score using orchestral forces.’
Sarabande is certainly one of Jon Lord’s most accessible pieces.
– Yes, I think so too. I felt very free and easy writing Sarabande. Especially coming after Windows which is rather odd, and Gemini Suite which is quite difficult and stern. With Sarabande, I discovered myself as the kind of composer I was going to become. It started a certain style of writing, and I was very pleased with Sarabande.
Thanks to Vince Budd who wrote The Gemini Man, an in-depth look at Jon Lord’s orchestral works.