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“To Matthew Barley”
Jon Lord: piano
Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Clark Rundell
Cormac Henry: flute
(To Notice Such Things, Avie, AV 2190)
Reduction by Paul Mann for piano, flute and cello also available.
Jon Lord’s Programme Note:
This was written as the result of a remark I heard a friend – the cellist Matthew Barley – make on a television programme. He was talking to a young cellist and asked him, ‘can you play the blues? Have you heard any blues music?’ The young cellist looked at him slightly askance and said, ‘well, no actually’, and Matthew said, ‘I think you should. You should look at a kind of music that’s not on the page, that comes out of your emotions and out of your heart and soul’, and then: ‘You never know, if you can play the blues, you might be able to play the Bach cello suites better or differently or with more feeling.’
That remark stuck in my head and thus Air on the Blue String, which started life as a piano solo, was born. A flute and a string quartet were added for a concert in the cathedral at the Lichfield Festival in July of this year , and then a full string orchestra…
A note by Paul Mann:
Jon is of course being excessively modest here. He knew only too well the value of such inter-disciplinary considerations – after all, no-one played the blues better than he did, and I’m sure if he’d been able to play the cello he’d have taken up the Bach Suites just to prove Matthew’s point.
In any case, there are numerous examples of such cross-fertilisation in Jon’s music, not least in this deeply affecting short piece. The references to Bach are clear enough, but the shadow of another great composer is perhaps less immediately apparent: that of Ravel whose Pavane pour une enfante defunte (of which Jon made an arrangement on his album Before I Forget [CD bonus track]) haunts the piece throughout. Ravel was of course no stranger to the blues himself, as is shown by the middle movement of his violin sonata, and by such works as his two piano concertos.
(It’s also a pleasant coincidence that it was Matthew Barley who stimulated Jon’s imagination in this way, because I was at school with him.)