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cover_22261413112010 (2)Deep Purple – Concerto for Group and Orchestra [1969]

In 1969, the blues-rock band Deep Purple bravely collaborated with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra in the world’s first attempt to blend classical Orchestral music with rock and roll. The result was a strange and exciting colliding of musical worlds and one of the finest moments in music history. The band’s keyboardist, Jon Lord, composed the entire concerto, which consisted of three movements. They are:

First Movement,  Moderato: Allegro

The first movement starts off with the orchestra introducing a musical theme and then alternates between the band and the orchestra fighting for dominance over it. At one point guitarist Ritchie Blackmore hijacks the movement and takes on an unexpectedly extended solo, much to the surprise of the tuxedo wearing orchestra. The solo is wild and frantic and in total contrast to the subdued approach of the orchestra; it perfectly encapsulates the difference between the two types of musicians competing for center stage – the loud and spontaneous rock and roll band and the soft and choreographed orchestra.

Second Movement, Andante

The second movement has the band integrating more with the orchestra and results in a finely woven musical collaboration. Vocalist Ian Gillan takes the microphone during this movement and fills the air with a voice that is uncharacteristically good for a rock and roll band; his range and use of vibrato really suits the concerto performance.

Third Movement, Vivace: Presto

By the third movement the band and orchestra have interwoven so much that the division between the two groups has all but dissolved. This movement contains some of Ritchie Blackmore’s finest playing as it shows off his classically trained chops and his ability to play lead guitar lines that are atypical of your standard blues-rock guitarists. Drummer Ian Paice takes a drum solo at one point and then seamlessly transitions it into a bridge that allows the orchestra and the rest of the band to come back into the mix to continue their musical conversation. The whole concerto is a hugely satisfying and unique musical experience that you won’t forget about anytime soon. Before the concerto was released on DVD it was released on vinyl, and it now also exists on CD. The album contains two extra tracks from the performance (the orchestra is not involved however), ‘Child in Time’, which is one of Deep Purple’s best songs, and ‘Wring That Neck’, Blackmore’s guitar tour de force.

* * * * * 5 stars

Track Listing

  1. First Movement,  Moderato: Allegro – 19:21
  2. Second Movement, Andante – 19:11
  3. Third Movement, Vivace: Presto – 13:09Bonus Tracks:
  4. Child In Time (13:34)
  5. Wring That Neck (14:50)

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