||One Mann`s Tale||
The score of the concerto was lost after the first performances in 1969-70. Could you say something about the attempt to recover it, and the subsequent restoration?
In around 1993, I first mentioned possibility of reviving the Concerto to Jon, in time for what would have been the 25th anniversary of the original performance. He was enthusiastic, but after the second of the two original performances at the Hollywood Bowl, the score and parts had gone missing, and no one had seen them since. Jon started searching at home, and I made enquiries everywhere I could think of that might be able to help, such as the archives of the Royal Philharmonic and Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestras, the offices of Sir Malcolm Arnold, and the former Deep Purple management. Since this all lead nowhere, Jon briefly toyed with the idea of reconstructing the piece himself, but soon gave up in the face of what would have been a massively time-consuming task.
So that, it seemed, was that, at least until the day he arrived at a hotel in Rotterdam before a Deep Purple concert, and was met in the foyer by a young man eager to speak to him. Jon’s tired and road-weary first instinct was just to sign an autograph and get to his room as quickly as possible, but it soon became clear that this was no ordinary autograph hunter. Using the video, and recordings of the original 1969 performance copied at various speeds, Marco de Goeij had spent the last two years of his life transcribing the concerto, all fifty minutes and 300 pages of it. This amazing labour of love opened up an opportunity we’d been dreaming of
When Jon and I met up to take a first look at the score, the scale of Marco’s achievement immediately became clear. Although naturally some things were incomplete - parts of the recording had been simply impossible to decipher - his work became the foundation stone of a painstaking, and exhilarating rebuilding of the long-lost concerto. During regular meetings, sometimes lasting days at a time, Jon and I worked through the score bar by bar, pooling ideas, listening again and again to the original recording, and trying things out fourhanded at the piano. (See the three pages of the first draft score reproduced here). At the height of this process, we virtually carpeted and papered his music room with sheets of scribbled-on, screwed-up, and stuck-together pages of full score.
As things took shape, the photocopied pages were FedExed back to Marco in Holland, who then entered them into a computer to produce the printed score - in itself an enormous task. The pages then came back to us for correction and further revision. The score went through at least three drafts in this way before the time finally came to commit ourselves and produce the orchestral parts, another huge operation masterminded by Marco. As the deadline neared, he was working more than 20 hours a day, sustained only by copious quantities of coffee, and God only knows how much sheer will power. Finally, the whole thing was ready, and was subjected to a final process of checking. Jon and I went through each of the orchestral parts one last time, in order to avoid using any of the precious rehearsal time correcting mistakes. Then, of course, came a massive job for the photocopiers!
Marco de Goeij deserves some kind of medal for his phenomenal musical intelligence, devotion well beyond the call of duty, and sheer endurance. Without him, none of it would have been possible – the task of reconstruction would have been just too great, and this wonderful piece would have been frozen in time, back there in 1969.
What are the details of the differences between the Concerto as it stood in 1969 and as it stands today?
Some of the most important differences are noted below: the first timing relates to the 1999 recording, the timing in brackets to the comparable place on the 1969 recording. There were countless other, less significant details, but these are the most noticeable:
Final tutti chords reinforced - orchestral percussion also added. (The first few of these are seriously untogether on the 1969 recording!) The final crescendo also reinforced – band entry delayed until penultimate bar.
Chord after first four notes revised – each time. Bell added.
At 02:03 on the original recording, Ian Paice enters at a tempo significantly faster than the one Sir Malcolm has set up! This causes an ensemble crisis for a few bars, with most of the woodwind players failing to come in for their tune. The correct version of this passage can be heard on the 1999 recording at 01:46.
Further revisions were made before the tour began in South America, and again before the most recent shows in Tokyo. Listeners who are so inclined may catch some of these on the recently released recordings of the concerts! One thing is certain, however: the Concerto for Group and Orchestra must now be one of the most thoroughly edited and painstakingly detailed scores in musical history. A definitive version will hopefully soon be available for sale as a study score, making the work available to other performers for the first time. There have been many enquiries from bands and orchestras wanting to play the Concerto, and it will be fascinating to see what they make of it.
All we need now is for the original score to turn up somewhere!
What is the difference between conducting the Concerto and conducting more standard Classical pieces? Did you already know the Concerto before you were asked to conduct it?
The concerto is great fun to conduct. It contains the best of both musical worlds, and requires a refreshingly different approach from a normal classical work. The element of improvisation in the band contributions, and the interaction between the band and orchestra makes each performance a unique thing.
As I have mentioned elsewhere, the concerto was one of the first pieces of music I ever heard as a young child, and it made an enormous and lasting impression. So yes, I was thoroughly familiar with it from the 1969 recording when the call came from Jon sometime in the spring of 1999.