The British TER/JAY label has built up a library of studio cast recordings of well-known stage musicals that are not based directly on actual stage productions, but sometimes have some associations with them. An example is this recording of Stephen Sondheim's A Little Night Music. A production of the show had been mounted in 1989 for the Chichester Festival, at which arranger/conductor John Owen Edwards put together a reduced musical accompaniment, due to space and financial restrictions, consisting of a string quintet, a woodwind quintet, harp, and piano/celesta. The production transferred to a London theater on October 10, 1989, and enjoyed a run of 152 performances. In March 1990, record producer John Yap employed the Edwards arrangements (with the addition of a percussionist) for this recording, which used Eric Flynn from the stage production in the starring male lead of Frederick Egerman, but otherwise did not feature that cast from the stage production. Typically, TER/JAY held back release of the album for years, until 1995, when a new London production was mounted that included Siân Phillips, heard here in the starring female lead of Desirée Armfeldt, even though Phillips was not playing that role on-stage. Often, TER/JAY makes a point of using a show's original orchestrations and including incidental music that was not included in the original Broadway or London cast albums and bills the result as a "complete" recording, but that is not the case here, even though, at 70-plus minutes, this is the longest recording of the score yet. The reduced arrangements are not much of a problem, although they are less lush for what is one of Sondheim's more lush works. (Harking back to Viennese operetta, it is full of waltzes and other multiples of three-quarter time.) The cast members sometimes seem to have had different conceptions of the musical approach, with, for example, Janis Kelly, as Anne, apparently thinking she was in more of an opera than a musical and emphasizing her voice over the lyrics. On the other hand, West End stage veteran Elisabeth Welch is a welcome presence singing Madame Armfeldt's lament about the decline in upper-class love affairs, "Liaisons." So, this ends up being a professional, but not exemplary, version of the show.
AllMusic Review by William Ruhlmann