Recent Music Reviews
Interview with of JOHN AXELROD of Classical Rock
John Axelrod gives us the lowdown on the new touring band Classical Rock...
How did the idea for Classical Rock come about?
Conceived, conducted and produced by John Axelrod (aka MaestroX), with arranger Christophe Patrix (aka CPRX), Classical Rock is a unique and revolutionary concept album pairing the best hits of classical music with the best hits of classic rock.
Axelrod, the Music Director of the Orchestre National des Pays de la Loire in France since 2010 and Principal Conductor of Orchestra Sinfonica di Milano "Giuseppe Verdi" in Italy since 2011, is no stranger to rock-n-roll. Prior to his professional career as a classical music conductor, Axelrod worked in the music business as an Artist and Repertoire director for BMG/RCA Records and Atlantic Records, where he was involved in the discovery and direction of such artists as the Smashing Pumpkins, Marc Cohen and Tori Amos.
In 1997, he founded OrchestraX in his hometown of Houston, Texas, which developed innovative ideas of concert programming for younger audiences. There he tested with great success the idea of presenting an orchestra as a rock band, creating an interactive experience similar in definition to a rock concert.
However, it was during his tenure from 2004-2009 as Chief Conductor of the Lucerne Symphony Orchestra that Axelrod presented such a program for the Lucerne Festival in a hockey arena in front of 4000 people, with the lead singer from Krokus, Mark Storace. Once Axelrod saw that it was not only a success musically and commercially, but also measurably increased subscribers to the orchestra, he understood the potential opportunity to record this project and make it available for a wider public.
How does Classical Rock sound different than early attempts to mix classical and rock music? In the 80's there was a big boom in classical rock, do you think the interest will be there again today?
Classical Rock is the ONLY recording that combines the best hits of classical music with the best hits of classic rock in unique, authentic arrangements. Other attempts at performing classic rock hits tend to be stereotyped as "elevator music," easy listening for an orchestra to play rock standards for the crossover crowd. Neither the orchestra nor the songwriters were well served. Classical Rock is as heavy as rock gets and as virtuosic as the best orchestras.
choosing your singers did you want classically trained singers like Nmon Ford or was a more rock orientated vocalist considered?
Both. Nmon Ford is an opera singer for our "Oratorio" version of Bohemian Rhapsody with members of the best choir from France, Accentus. It made sense, given the LP by Queen was called "A Night at the Opera," to maintain an operatic approach. Whereas for Stairway to Heaven, given it is the archetypal rock ballad, it was necessary to keep the rock roots with a rock singer, only a female rocker, Patsy Blackstone, who is totally authentic and believable when she sings, "There's a lady who's sure all that glitters is gold....."
What sort of venues are you planning for the 2012 tour? Will you be doing a mix of classical venues and rock venues to get a cross section of audience?
Classical Rock understands the attitudes and lifestyles of its public. Classical Rock makes an interactive environment consistent with the definitions of what makes a concert experience successful for a rock public, while performing the classical repertoire at the highest caliber to meet the demands of a classical audience. Why? Because it is all good music. Muzak is not our interest. The integrity of classical music is presented at the highest level of performance. The orchestral arrangements of classic rock hits are unique and musical. The sonic levels remain consistent between the two worlds. We join in one universe. That is Classical Rock.
en that classical music can often have the air of snobbery over other musical genres can you see the classical music lovers embracing Classical Rock?
We can appreciate the purist in the classical music industry who considers such a project at best a novelty and at worst classical-crossover. For some, the return to compressed sound is blasphemous to the idea that the listener must be still while the sound must travel to be well experienced. We believe the listener and the music can ride together on this magical, mystery tour.
This project may appeal more to audiences more familiar with the rock music than the classical repertoire. But the hope is that those new audiences will hear the music in a new way and appreciate the recording and concert enough to come to more orchestral concerts.
Indeed, the real mission for Classical Rock, and for many musicians, is not simply developing audiences for classical music. It is in developing audiences to come hear live the instrument that plays the repertoire: the orchestra. Without this instrument, much of the great classical hits would never have been composed. And much of classic rock would have lost its most inspired influence.
What sort of stage show can people expect at the shows?
Lights, cameras, action.....As dynamic as any stage show, as intimate as any concert. Full chorus, orchestra, singers. Video and sing-along. And some of the best music ever composed.
How did you choose to work with the Prague Metropolitan Philharmonic Orchestra? Will the same orchestra be touring around the world?
The Prague Metropolitan Philharmonic Orchestra includes some of the best musicians from the Czech Philharmonic, Prague Symphony Orchestra and Czech Radio Symphony. Because they have a flexible repertoire of popular titles and symphonic works, and they have recorded extensively for recordings and tours, they are the ideal partner. While we plan a concert to be filmed in March and tour in August 2012, Classical Rock is available for any orchestra to perform. Orchestras know the classical music. They can rent our classic rock arrangements. Then they have Classical Rock and they can build audiences and raise funds at the same time. We plan to record Classical Rock Volume 2 in the fall of 2012. We invite our listeners to send in suggestions to our website: www.myclassicalrock.com
The Classical Rock Band, featuring multi-guitarist Bert Verschueren, drummer Bram Raeymaekers and bassist Herwig Sheck were the ideal musicians to give us the heavy, classic rock sound. They will also be featured on our tour.
'Bohemian Rhapsody' has been released as a download single, how has this done so far?
The debut on November 24, 2011 in Montreux, Switzerland, in honor of the 20th anniversary of the death of Freddie Mercury, was an historic event. 1800 people listened to Bohemian Rhapsody in Stravinsky Auditorium during the Queen events presented by la Saison Culturelle. We instantly had over 2000 downloads. As a result, we have now over 13,000 viewers and loads of comments on our YouTube channel. Downloading is easy and inexpensive on our website for both the full recording or single tracks. And the word is spreading. We are very happy that people hear not only the quality but the coolness of Classical Rock.