KEITH EMER­SON

Be­yond The Stars SI­maX Clas­sics Clear vinyl press­ings for cel­e­bra­tory clas­si­cal events.

Prog - - The Musical Box - Mike Barnes

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.

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