Tuesday 28 November 2017

Revolting Rhymes and Marvellous Music from the Magnard Ensemble

Revolting Rhymes and Marvellous Music - Magnard Ensemble
Patterson Little Red Riding Hood, Three Little Pigs; Magnard Ensemble; Orchid Classics
Reviewed by Robert Hugill on Nov 21 2017 Star rating: 5.0
Roald Dahl's marvellous stories with Paul Patterson's wittily inventive music, in infectious performances

This delightful disc features two works by Paul Patterson based on stories by Roald Dahl, Little Red Riding Hood and The Three Little Pigs, along with Martin Butler's Dirty Beast, also based on Roald Dahl. The works are performed by the Magnard Ensemble (Suzannah Watson, flute/piccolo, Mana Shibata, oboe, Joseph Shiner, clarinet/bass clarinet, Catriona McDermid, bassoon, Jonathan Farey, horn and Sulling King, piano), with narrator Rebecca Kenny.

Little Red Riding Hood was written by Paul Patterson in 1992 to a commissin from  Roald Dahl's widow and was first performed by the London Philharmonic Orchestra. This orchestral version was followed by a number of others, including the one used on this disc for piano and wind quintet, originally designed to facilitate performance at children's concerts. Roald Dahl's original story has been expanded slightly somewhat by Donald Sturrock, but the essential Dahl magic is still there, engagingly narrated by Rebecca Kenny.

Of course, the story has some interesting twists, including the ending. But Patterson's delightful music is fully the story's equal.
Patterson writes lively, intelligent music which brings the story alive and includes quite a few naughty quotations. I particularly liked the Tristan & Isolde quotation when the wolf is contemplating 'juicy cow' for dinner, but there are plenty more to give the musically literate fun. Patterson's score is full of these ingenious touches, and what Patterson calls the 'cat-walk music' for Red Riding Hood's final appearance is a complete delight and adds a new twist to the character.

Martin Butler's Dirty Beasts was written in 1988 and sets three of Dahl's poems from this collection. Different in style to Patterson's music, Butler's is no less engaging. Perhaps less self-consciously fun, Butler's music does a great job of setting of Dahl's poems which are read by Rebecca Kenny.

Patterson's The Three Little Pigs was originally written for orchestra in 2004. The booklet notes mention how this disc arose because of a conversation in a practice room at the Royal College of Music with Patterson, who produced a piano and wind version of The Three Little Pigs for the Magnard Ensemble who took both Patterson pieces on tour. Like Little Red Riding Hood, Three Little Pigs has some suitably Roald Dahl twists to it, particularly the ending (which involves Red Riding Hood), and Patterson's inventive music complements the story delightfully.

The Magnard Ensemble play all three piece with infectious charm, and investing the music with a wide range of colours and making something really engaging. Rebecca Kenny is the characterful narrator, really drawing us into the stories and displaying a wide range of voices. There are no texts, but you certainly don't need any with Kenny's clarity of diction.

The Magnard Ensemble launched their Revolting Rhymes and Marvellous Music project to celebrated the centenary of Roadl Dahl's birth, giving concerts and workshops across the country.

The nearest comparision is of course Prokofiev's Peter and the Wolf, except that this piece's didacticism is replaced with the wit and humour of Dahl's words and Patterson's music. Highly recommended, particulary in the infectious performances from the Magnard Ensemble.

Paul Patterson (born 1947) - Little Red Riding Hood
Martin Butler (born 1960) - Dirty Beasts
Paul Patterson - The Three Little Pigs
Magnard Ensemble
Recorded at Trinity United Reformed Church, Wimbledon, 7-8 April 2016
Available from Amazon.co.uk

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