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The Doors Concerto
Violin: Nigel Kennedy
Prague Symphony Orchestra: Peter Scholes
DECCA CD 467350-2
 AmazonUK  AmazonUS

Compositions involving interactive combinations of musical styles, normally considered to be separate and distinct (either geographically or culturally), have a long history. One calls to mind John Gay's The Beggar's Opera in the 18th Century, which mixed the Handelian classical style with the London tavern songs of the day.

Many 19th and 20th Century symphonic composers drew upon folk melodies of their native land - including notably Dvorak and Vaughan Williams. The folk-rock movement of the early 1970s (for example Steel Eye Span, Horslips, Fairport Convention) spawned a distinctive genre which lives on. The WOMAD festivals of the 1980s and 1990s have amply demonstrated the synergistic interactions that have evolved between music of western, Indian, Afro-Caribbean and oriental origins.

For those who regret the almost total segregation of western "classical" and "rock" music, it is sad to recall that attempts at synthesis of these styles have largely proved short-lived and unsustainable. The incorporation of 18th Century melodic lines into charts numbers (for example Groovy kind of love and Whiter shade of pale) hardly count for this purpose, interesting and enduring as they are as individual pieces.

At the same time, however, there have been honourable exceptions, Mike Oldfield's Tubular Bells being perhaps the most famous. This new recording shows high promise to be just such another. The Doors Concerto is a classical concerto for virtuoso violin solo and symphony orchestra in nine movements, each inspired by, with broad thematic and harmonic derivation from, a song by The Doors:

  1. Riders on the Storm

  2. The Unknown Soldier

  3. Spanish Caravan

  4. Love Street

  5. Hello, I Love You

  6. Light My Fire

  7. People are Strange

  8. Strange Days

  9. The End.

Certainly the best of the rock music of the late 1960s and early 1970s emerged in the 1990s as an enduring source of inspiration amongst fin de millenium young adults. Attendance at concerts of the Australian Doors, and observing the youthful audience's enthusiasm for the creations of Jim Morrison (written before they were born), provides convincing proof that it is not just a case of over-50s being nostalgic.  

In The Doors Concerto Jaz Coleman seeks to evoke themes of deep angst: the Vietnam conflict, the martyrdom of Che Guevara, the persecution of Romany peoples, the Prague Spring of 1968, the grief of bereavement and mortality, and environmental devastation. The prevailing mood however is not at all one of sombre lamentation, but of catharsis: a journeying through despair to the ultimate triumph of hope over adversity. Its paradigm can be summarized in the quoted prayer of Jim Morrison: O Great Creator of Being, grant us one more hour to perform our art and perfect our lives. To this listener's ears at any rate, the music is strongly reminiscent of that of Vaughan Williams and is infused throughout with optimistic freshness and vitality. The playing of the Prague Symphony Orchestra is a vigorous and enthusiastic response to the score, whilst Nigel Kennedy provides all the solo virtuosity for which he is famous. This composition could yet become an icon of the "Second Enlightenment" at the cusp of the 3rd Millenium through which we are living. Time will tell.

 Humphrey Smith

For interest see also Malcolm Arnold/Jon Lord Concerto for Group and Orchestra

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