Wearing a nice black suit and shiny white shoes, but badly shaved, Rick Wakeman gave a brilliant outdoor performance behind his Steinway grand piano at the 2009 Lugano Estival Jazz in Switzerland on July 2nd. This time he wasn’t accompanied by the (New) English Rock Ensemble, but by a classical orchestra and a choir. With the help of conductor Guy Protheroe and the Orchestra Della Svizzera Italiana this performance – on a stage built in the centre of Lugano –turned out to be a very impressive event.
During the 90 minutes of this performance I was chained to my chair to witness how the great music written by Mr. Wakeman got a classical treatment. The albums released at the start of his solo career Journey To The Centre Of The Earth (1974) and The Myths & Legends Of King Arthur And The Knights Of The Round Table (1975) already featured many classical elements caused by the use of an orchestra and a choir. Therefore, the songs taken from these albums are certainly the highlights on this release. After a short introduction the concert starts with The King Arthur Suite, a medley of the King Arthur-album. Both the orchestra and the choir are essential in this piece; the vocal parts are sung by the oboist while Rick plays on the grand piano on which he also plays the MiniMoog-parts of the original version. However, I didn’t miss a singer or a Moog-synthesizer at all. During the second track Gone But Not Forgotten, the orchestra gets a more supporting role. This time Rick Wakeman and his piano are in the limelight. Next we can enjoy Catherine Howard, the only piece performed of The Six Wives Of Henry VIII (1973). I wouldn’t say that this piece is the best one of that album, but it certainly is one of my favourites. It gets a very strong rendition here with a great job for the choir and the wonderful piano playing by Rick Wakeman.
Mr. Wakeman has always been a great admirer of The Beatles. He recorded some of their songs on his albums and performed them occasionally. So it was obvious that we could enjoy two songs written by Lennon & McCartney. First, he did a rather slow version of Help followed by Eleanor Rigby. The latter probably has been covered most by a classical orchestra with or without a rock band. Not only Kansas, Twelfth Night or Esperanto managed to perform it the right way, but Rick Wakeman and the orchestra performed an appropriate version as well with a leading role for the trumpeter and Rick himself. After The Ball is next on the set list, a nice slow piece of music originally written for the soundtrack of White Rock (1977) about the Innsbruck Winter Olympics in 1976. During the King Arthur Suite they didn’t play excerpts from Merlin, but it got a treatment of his own. This was a wise decision because now you can watch the entire piece that was probably written as a kind of showcase for the great pianist Rick Wakeman is. The Moog-solo – written after a visit to a pub where he quickly drank five triple scotches to find some inspiration – was again wonderfully played on his grand piano. For me, the almost 30-minute version of Journey To The Centre Of The Earth is the ultimate highlight during this show. Again the choir and the orchestra lift this great song to a higher level. It seems as if Rick had to play along with them and it also seems as if this piece was written by a classical composer. Wakeman introduced the last title of the set as a ‘short piece’ to end this performance. Only four minutes are left for the final encore, a kind of jig. Consequently this piece is entitled The Jig…
This DVD is highly recommended to people who love the great music written by Rick Wakeman, but also devotees of progressive rock who enjoy classical music will find a lot of satisfaction in watching this performance that has a perfect sound and vision as well. The camera crew made fine close-ups of all musicians. They didn’t mind that Rick Wakeman forgot to shave properly before this concert. Neither did I because it’s only the music that matters…
**** Henri Strik (edited by Peter Willemsen)
Where to buy?
All Rights Reserved Background Magazine 2013