September 24 marks the 50th anniversary of the world premiere of Jon Lord‘s most famous work – Concerto for Group and Orchestra – at London’s Royal Albert Hall.
With new performances across Europe, in Canada and elsewhere, the work continues to captivate and enthrall audiences the world over. Its unique combination of orchestra and band is still a breath taking experience for concerts goers.
Before his untimely death in 2012, Lord toured the world with the Concerto both solo and with Deep Purple, earning accolades and respect from the musicians who discovered and performed the piece along the way.
In 1969 however, the concept of an orchestral work involving an electric rock band was widely frowned upon. And moving quickly from a loose idea to concrete plans when his manager booked the Royal Albert Hall, Lord would come home from gigs with Deep Purple and work into the early hours on manuscript paper spread out across the floor of his London flat.
Rehearsals were short and fraught with frustration, with not exactly all of the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra offering their best for the project. Working with the very basic tools of the day, engineer Martin Birch managed to capture the music for release a few months later.
Subsequent reissues and upgrades have seen the recording released repeatedly over the years. The photo shows a selection of editions from around the world – Japan, USA, Russia, Mexico, including Far East pirates, promo editions and the luxurious 2014 vinyl box set, which comprised the evening’s full set that also included a short rock set by Deep Purple and Sir Malcolm Arnold‘s Symphony No. 6 Opus 95.
In 1999, triumphant 30th anniversary performances at the Royal Albert Hall turned into something of a Purple feast with each member adding pieces from their solo career to the program and fans from around the world taking the opportunity to gather for the event.
In 2011, Jon was finally given the opportunity to commit his perhaps most prestigious work to record in a definitive studio edition overseen by conductor Paul Mann. The result was both thunderous and delicate, as the carefully revised piece displayed its full potential.
The documentary below follows the 2011 and 2012 recording sessions and offers both humour and insight into the recreation of the Concerto.
In the comments below, please share your memories and impressions of the 50 years young Concerto for Group and Orchestra.