TCHAIKOVSKY (Arr. by CARL DAVIS): Alice in Wonderland Ballet – The City of Prague Symphony Orchestra/Carl Davis – Threefold Records CDC 001, 78:00 ****[Distrib. by Naxos]:
Composer/arranger Carl Davis is an American but based in London. He has specialized in scores for radio, TV, film and theater. His best-known film score was probably for The French Lieutenant’s Woman. He was commissioned by the artistic director of the English National Ballet to arrange a score for a full-length Alice in Wonderland ballet using the music of Tchaikovsky. Davis recalled that Tchaikovsky had written 24 short piano pieces to be played for children. Then he dove into the colossal output of Tchaikovsky’s complete works. He used excerpts from The Seasons, Sleeping Beauty, Incidental Music to Hamlet, the Suite No. 1, as well as from The Album for the Young. One thinks of the Pineapple Poll ballet using Gilbert & Sullivan’s music or Les Sylphides, using works of Chopin. This one is equally clever and successful.
35 very short cues make up the ballet, something like cues from a film soundtrack. You can follow along the titles while you listen if you wish. Most fit their subjects very well, and it’s interesting to try to identify where the various Tchaikovsky pieces originated – many of them will be unfamiliar. They all fit together quite comfortably. The synopsis provided in the notes uses some quotes from Alice as well as listing the original Tchaikovsky sources. The City of Prague Symphony members are old hands at doing this very sort of thing – they have probably recorded more soundtrack music in the last several years than any other orchestra in the world. Sonics are excellent. With all the Alice in Wonderland hoopla currently, perhaps the BBC or somebody should consider putting a video of the ballet out on DVD. The few photos from the ballet look promising.
– John Sunier