The Beatles Concerto
Peter Rostal, of the piano duo Rostal & Schaefer, writes:
"The idea of creating a Beatles Concerto for two pianos and orchestra occurred to me during a sleepless night early in 1977. This was partly because I loved the Beatles' music, and along with my piano duo partner, Paul Schaefer, we often included our own arrangements of their songs in our two-piano recitals anyway. However, it also seemed to me that several of the tunes were not simply beautiful melodies, but several (eg Eleanor Rigby, Can't Buy Me Love, etc) incorporated motifs that had the potential to be developed within the structure of a large-scale classical concerto. It also seemed natural that certain songs, such as The Long and Winding Road and Something, could sound wonderful in the grand romantic concerto style of Rachmaninov or Tchaikovsky.
When I awoke, I telephoned Paul with the idea, and he was equally enthused. The obvious collaborator had to be John Rutter. We both loved and admired his music, he and Paul had grown up together as schoolboys at Highgate School in North London, and John had already written many marvellous orchestrations for us anyway. Happily, John was willing to rise to the challenge and, in my opinion, created a brilliant work. He also entered into the fun by, for example, making sly references to other popular concertos - eg the Grieg and Chopin E minor concertos in the transition from Here, There and Everywhere to Something, in the slow movement.
We gave the first performance in June 1977, as part of the BBC International Festival of Light Music, at the Royal Festival Hall with the BBC Radio Orchestra, conducted by Robert Farnon. Subsequently, we performed it in concert halls all over the world, as well as unusual venues, from the Domain Park in Sydney, Australia, with the Sydney Symphony Orchestra conducted by John Lanchbery to the Hong Kong Coliseum with the Hong Kong Philharmonic!
In 1979, we recorded it for the original Beatles label, EMI Parlophone, in Liverpool Philharmonic Hall with the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Ron Goodwin, and produced by the Beatles producer, George Martin. We launched that recording with another performance at the Royal Festival Hall with the London Symphony Orchestra conducted by Ron Goodwin. Subsequently, we re-recorded it for Universal in 2003, with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by John Rutter."
John Rutter wrote:
"The Beatles Concerto (1977) still makes me smile. My old friends Peter Rostal and Paul Schaefer offered me what must be the most unlikely challenge of my composing career when they asked if I could create a grand romantic-style concerto for two pianos and orchestra from Beatles songs. As a Beatles fan, I accepted the challenge, but gratefully made use of three of Peter and Paul’s own two-piano arrangements: these appear in the first movement, where the piano parts in the sections based on Eleanor Rigby, Yesterday, and Hey Jude are theirs, not mine. After that, I took off on my own, and hugely enjoyed contriving cascades of chromatics, armfuls of arpeggios and deluges of double octaves, all shamelessly plundered from the great masters. The best part of it all was that I didn’t have to play it: that’s a finger-breaking task I have happily left to Peter and Paul, who have never complained. But let’s not forget that there is an underlying tenderness in so many Beatles songs; this comes to the fore in the second movement, which is based on one of the loveliest of them, Here, there and everywhere."
A recording from 1979 conducted by Ron Goodwin included the interpretation and performance of concert-pianists Peter Rostal and Paul Schaefer as well as the accompaniment from the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra. The guest leader of the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic for this recording was Hugh Maguire.
The record label was EMI, and in those days EMI had its own mobile recording service and were frequent visitors to the RLPO and the Philharmonic Hall. The engineer for these sessions was the veteran sound genius Stuart Eltham. The recording was made on eight-track one-inch tape (EMI's own brand) running at 15 inches per second on Studer A80 tape machines. Dolby A noise reduction was used on each channel. Microphones were all Neumanns. EMI used their own design sound mixing desk and Tannoy monitor speakers.
One of the editors of this contribution at the time of this recording was a very new player in the RLPO and was very excited to be part of this project. When the recording was first talked of, the orchestra were informed that the Beatles had given their permission for the project, but with the proviso that it must be recorded in Liverpool. The truth of this cannot be guaranteed, but it was certainly in current belief at the time.
The RLPO had worked with Ron Goodwin many times, but it was an extra thrill to have the legendary George Martin there as producer. The six Beatles Impressions which went on the LP along with the Concerto were single song arrangements for pianos and orchestra. Ron Goodwin and John Rutter arranged three each.
Rostal and Schaefer were great fun to work with. Schaefer, especially, built up a jokey rapport with some of the orchestra, and a series of practical jokes started between him and the band members during the recording sessions. The final one was when he returned to the piano after listening to a take in the control room. On putting his hands onto the keys for the first chord of the next take, he found that 'someone' had Sellotaped all the keys together. The audible results might well still lurk somewhere in the EMI out-takes vault.
Since then, Rutter's The Beatles Concerto and its recording have been compared to concertos from Rachmaninoff and Tchaikovsky. It has also been praised as not being "...the umpteenth album, with a medley of tunes, by Lennon-McCartney-Harrison, but contains [sic] a number of The Beatles songs, arranged in a classical form...". The original LP record was produced by The Beatles producer George Martin.
In the U.S., the album was released on the Moss Music Group label: MMG 1121.
George Martin provided the liner notes on the back of the LP cover: "The arrival of the Beatles in 1962 heralded a collation of creativity unprecedented in English popular music, embracing the best of talents far wider than their own group. Their success broke all kinds of barriers, and when the shocked establishment managed to hear the music through the “noise” the realised that genuinely original music of lasting beauty was being created.
Now, seventeen years later, we have the happy assembly of the talents of the brilliant young duo-pianists Peter Rostal and Paul Schaefer, the tasteful writing of John Rutter, and the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra under the superb direction of my old friend Ron Goodwin.
Ron, (who I hasten to add, is one month younger than me!) was my first signing as a record producer a few years back, and his musicianship has been as steadfast as his friendship.
Anyone who admits to liking the great piano concertos of Grieg, Rachmaninov, or Tchaikovsky cannot fail to enjoy The Beatles Concerto – not just another medley of tunes by Lennon, McCartney or Harrison, but a true composition in Classical form.
And the artistry and mix in the arrangements of Beatles’ impressions by both John Rutter and Ron Goodwin are a joy to hear.
It is not such a long way from the Cavern to the Philharmonic Hall!"
- 1st Movement: Mæstoso - Allegro Moderato (She Loves You - Eleanor Rigby - Yesterday - All My Loving - Hey Jude) 8:00
- 2nd Movement: Andante Espressivo (Here, There and Everywhere - Something) 7:36
- 3rd Movement: Presto (Can't Buy Me Love - The Long and Winding Road) 7:53
- The Fool on the Hill (Arr. Rutter) 5:09
- Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds (Arr. Goodwin) 2:25
- Michelle (Arr. Goodwin) 3:15
- Maxwell's Silver Hammer (Arr. Goodwin) 2:37
- Here Comes the Sun (Arr. Rutter) 3:25
- A Hard Day's Night (Arr. Rutter) 4:08
The bonus 7" single featuring (A-side) Here, There and Everywhere/Something and (B-Side) Can't Buy Me Love/The Long And Winding Road came free with the album
- Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, Peter Rostal (Piano), Paul Schaefer (Piano) and John Rutter (Conductor & Composer). John Rutter: Distant Land.: Beatles Concerto. Studio. Trak no. 5 (23:41), Rec. May 2003. Information republished by "Rutter: Distant Land, Suites, Etc / Rostal, Schaefer, Rpo Classical CD." CD Universe & Muze Inc. Accessed 14 Jan. 2008.
Photography and Design was for the album package was by Hipgnosis.