> Alfred Reynolds - Alice through the Looking-Glass Suite [JW]: Classical CD Reviews- Sept 2002 MusicWeb(UK)

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Alfred REYNOLDS (1884-1969)
Festival March
Suite; Alice through the Looking-Glass
Suite; The Toy Cart
Overture; The Taming of the Shrew
Suite; 1066 and All That
Suite of five dances from The Duenna
Overture for a Comedy
The Sirens of Southend
Swiss Lullaby and Ballet from Swiss Family Robinson
Suite; Marriage a la Mode
Three Pieces for Theatre;
(i) Overture to Much Ado about Nothing
(ii) Entr’acte from The Critic
(iii) Mascarade from The Merchant of Venice
Royal Ballet Sinfonietta
Gavin Sutherland
Recorded Whitfield Street Studios, London December 2000

Alfred Reynolds was Liverpool born in 1884 and a student of Humperdinck in Berlin for six years. He was something of a traveller, journeying to the Far East with an operatic troupe, as well as making American visits. Reynolds was employed as a theatre composer for most of his active professional life – concocting light baroquerie and pastiche, revue and operetta; he was a real all-rounder, adding songs and cabaret turns as well as light orchestral music (broadcast by the BBC from the late 1920s onwards). His experiences in Germany before the First World War – where he’d led an operatic company conducting a diet of Strauss, Lehár and Sullivan – seem to have equipped him admirably for a compositional profile of melodic concision and charm, if not, ultimately, of striking distinction.

His Festival March is suitably rousing and a stirring introduction to this disc of – mainly – theatrical suites. Jabberwocky from his Alice through the Looking-Glass is a riotous affair, compounded of Dukas, and complete with siren whistle whereas the following Ballet is a teasing little waltz with rococo piano interjection and the added plangency of a rather rhythmic cello solo. Like Ketèlbey Reynolds was adroitly mindful of the power of solo instrumental voices. The Finale has the melodic impress of a music hall song and is complete with its own mini trio section. The Prelude to The Toy Cart is spiced with some orchestral exotica whilst the Romanza is a deliciously lyrical two minutes’ worth, with a violin solo to add to the interest. The finale is in oriental style, bristling with orchestral incident. He is descriptive in the overture to The Taming of the Shrew, alternating fractious and jovial elements and representative of Petruchio and Katherine. Reynolds’ gift for gorgeous melody is exemplified by the 1934 incidental music to 1066 and All That whilst the Ballet is a confection of popular tunes on the subject of roses. Reynolds can activate a mobile bass line, as in the Gavotte from his dances from The Duenna, an earlier work dating from the mid twenties, whilst there’s some vigorous bassoon work in The Duenna’s Dance and the merest hint of Beechamesque swagger. At the heart of his Overture for a Comedy is a persuasively romantic central section – nice contrastive material and very crisply played indeed by the Royal Ballet Sinfonietta, most particularly trumpets and woodwind and some glamorously sheeny violins under the ever alert Gavin Sutherland soon, I believe, to turn his hand to Billy Mayerl. The Sirens of Southend – yes, it’s true - are not especially high kicking but are certainly rhythmically athletic with some coquettish little flourishes – written for a Cabaret at the Metropole Theatre in 1926, as Philip Scowcroft’s essential notes remind us. Reynolds encourages another cello solo in the Swiss Lullaby and Ballet and he cultivates a Spanish tinge in Marriage à la Mode as he does also in a couple of the dance movements from The Duenna. How good to hear the Overture to Much Ado about Nothing – full of flexible romantic comedy. In fact how good to hear the until-now neglected Alfred Reynolds receive his due at last in this spirited and blemish free production.

Jonathan Woolf

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