These days we’re very used to the worlds of rock and classical music coming together. In 1969, for the most part, they lived at very different addresses, until the composing genius of Jon Lord brought them together in the groundbreaking Concerto For Group And Orchestra performed on 24 September 1969 by the powerful combination of the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra and Deep Purple.
The majesty of the orchestra, conducted by the revered Sir Malcolm Arnold, dovetailed with the commanding presence of Deep Purple as they were emerging as one of Britain’s finest new rock forces. There were brilliant solos by Lord, the powerful showmanship of Ian Gillan, rocksteady performances by bassist Roger Glover and drummer Ian Paice and the potent playing of lead guitarist Ritchie Blackmore.
Purple performed the original Concerto once more, in California in 1970, this time with the Los Angeles Philharmonic, after which Lord’s score was, rather improbably and upsettingly, lost. After Dutch composer Marco de Goeij restored the score by annotating it from the video and audio recordings of the 1969 performance, the band were able to stage it again, this time with the London Symphony Orchestra but again at the Royal Albert Hall, 30 years almost to the day since the first concert, on 25 and 26 September 1999. There was a guest vocal appearance alongside Purple by Blackmore’s former Rainbow colleague Ronnie James Dio, as a triumphant night was reenacted.
The album of the full 1969 show became Purple’s first UK chart album, peaking at No. 26 early the following year. In the US, where the band’s three early albums had all charted in 1968 and 1969, it reached No. 149 in an eight-week run. Just six months after the live LP appeared, the band would release one of their studio classics, Deep Purple In Rock, as the legend of the Mark II line-up began to grow.
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