During the last four years or so, I have been frequently asked why I, a jazz musician, would write a "concerto" for guitar and symphony orchestra. The reasons why people do certain things often remain a mystery - even to themselves. However I may be able to throw some light on the answer by looking in the past for some pointers.
My first experience in music was with "traditional" western classical music: Beethoven, Schubert and Brahms. I have a distinct memory of "suddenly hearing and feeling" the beautiful sound of human voices at the end of Beethoven's Ninth Symphony during a family listening. I must have been five or six years old at that time, and the revelation had an indelible impact on me. Shortly afterward, I began taking piano lessons, but my next musical awakening occurred at 11 years of age - when the guitar was already in my hands - and I discovered in quick succession Mississippi blues, flamenco music and jazz. Perhaps it was this experience that opened my ears to the beauty of the music of all cultures, and, after many years, I can only confirm this wonderful truth.
During the following years I continued to enjoy symphonic music and, in fact, by 1972 was already writing Apocalypse, which was performed in 1973 by Michael Tilson Thomas and the London Symphony Orchestra and subsequently released by CBS Records.
This project, however adventurous it may have seemed, still allowed me to play in the familiar context of a group itself surrounded by a symphony orchestra. Despite monumental technical problems, it was performed by the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra with Michael Tilson Thomas conducting in early 1973. I shall always treasure this memory.
Numerous years passed before I was again confronted by the possibility of writing for symphony orchestra. It was in 1981, after a concert at the Hollywood Bowl (during which the pianists Katia and Marielle Labeque also performed), that we were having dinner with Ernest Fleischman, the Executive Director of the Los Angeles Philharmonic. During the dinner Ernest asked if I would come to play Rodrigo's famous "Aranjuez" Concerto for guitar and orchestra. Very flattered, I replied jokingly that I would come to play if I were to write a new piece. Much to my surprise, he agreed immediately, and because of his constant enthusiasm - without which the piece would not exist, and for which I shall always be thankful - Mediterranean was written and premiered in Los Angeles on Thanksgiving 1984.
In sharp contrast to Apocalypse, Mediterranean is for solo guitar and symphony orchestra. The title is firstly one of inspiration: since my home overlooks that splendid sea, it was instrumental in helping me. Secondly, the Mediterranean is very much present in the work's musical - cultural influences. One can detect immediately my continuing affection for Hispanic and French cultures of the 20th century, particularly in the first and second movements. The third movement will perhaps reveal more of the New-World influence. In any event, should any of those who listen to this piece then accuse me of creating a vast "potpourri" I shall be delighted, for it is nothing if not that, and if it gives pleasure to only one person, then all the work would have not been in vain.

The realization of the duos with Katia Labeque is one of the high points of my musical life. She is an exquisite musician endowed with the most fabulous means. These five pieces offer a view into an intimate world, one that holds great promise for future harvests. The pieces are themselves simply "songs" that are more or less abstract but nevertheless very personal. I hope you enjoy them.

- John McLaughlin
September 10, 1989, Monaco

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