Jon Lord: Durham Concerto

The transfer from pop or rock musician to classical music supremo is a path many have attempted to tread, with only limited success.

In the case of the former Deep Purple keyboard player Jon Lord, though, the traversal from one genre to another has been triumphant.

Lord’s Durham Concerto was his first solely classical piece, commissioned by Durham University to celebrate its 175th anniversary. The work was five years in the making, finally premiered in the city’s cathedral on 20 October 2007 and featuring the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra, Northumbrian pipes player Kathryn Tickell, cellist Matthew Barley, violinist Ruth Palmer, and Lord himself at his beloved Hammond organ.

It’s a deeply evocative work: not for Lord such dry descriptions as ‘first movement’ or ‘finale’ – instead, we have Durham Awakes, The Cathedral at Dawn and The Road to Lindisfarne. There are hues of folk music running throughout and brilliant uses of orchestral colour as Lord employs the woodwind to particularly quirky effect.

The Durham Concerto has been described as being reminiscent of the music of Vaughan Williams and Thomas Tallis, among others. For a proudly British composer, whose route to classical music was certainly less conventional than your average musician’s, that’s something about which Jon Lord can be very happy.

Recommended Recording

Kathryn Tickell (Northumbrian pipes); Ruth Palmer (violin); Matthew Barley (cello); Jon Lord (Hammond organ); Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra; Mischa Damev (conductor). Avie: 2145.