Beyond The Stars SImaX Classics Clear vinyl pressings for celebratory classical events.
On the sleevenotes for The Nice’s 1970 album Five Bridges, Keith Emerson wrote, “On a journey from the almost utopian freedom of our music to the established music school I met Joseph Eger who was travelling in the opposite direction.”
Eger conducted The Five Bridges Suite, which merged classical with pop and jazz and so, in Emerson’s mind, the two musicians were no longer diverging. But the sort of crossover between rock and classical that Emerson was looking for was not straightforward. Some orchestral musicians at the Five Bridges concert made a statement by stuffing their ears with cotton wool and, frankly, The Nice’s Sibelius and Tchaikovsky with a 4/4 beat now sounds clunky. Wind forward to 1977 and Leonard Bernstein was approached to conduct Emerson’s Piano Concerto No.1 for Emerson, Lake & Palmer’s Works Vol. 1, but the composer was derisive about the piece.
It all felt rather like rock upstarts going cap-in-hand to the classical establishment for their blessing, only to be told they had written “student pieces” because they weren’t orchestrated in a certain way. But with the popularity of orchestral works by minimalist composers like Arvo Part and Philip Glass, and with recent orchestrations of electronicists such as Mouse On Mars and Aphex Twin, that proscriptive approach to deciding what orchestral music is worth listening to seems, thankfully, to belong to a bygone era.
Beyond The Stars features some of the pieces played at the Keith Emerson Tribute Concerts last year, beginning with Rachel Flowers playing the third movement from Emerson’s Piano Concerto No. 1 in a punchy, vivid recording, with the Academy Of Saint Martin In The Fields conducted by Terje Mikkelsen, which surely warrants the concise, attractive piece being released again in full. Emerson’s grandson Ethan, a prodigiously talented 12-year-old, plays sparkling piano on The Dreamer.
Side two features The Keith Emerson Band playing pieces recorded at the sessions Tarkus Concertante in 2012 with the Munich Radio Orchestra, including Emerson’s arrangement and orchestration of guitarist Marc Bonilla’s The Mourning Sun. There’s a version of Emerson’s arrangement for Aaron Copland’s Fanfare For The Common Man, with its dramatic melody lines arcing over a rock groove.
But the highlight is the title track, on which Emerson’s crisp, intricate orchestration balances romantic melody with a modernist edge. It feels like the full blossoming of his individual voice as an orchestral composer, an avenue of expression that was sadly cut short.
THE FULL BLOSSOMING OF HIS VOICE AS AN ORCHESTRAL COMPOSER.