Carl Davis has become internationally renowned and admired for his film scores, but he has also composed a number of ballets on literary subjects, and this has developed into an important category of his work. In providing music for such classic tales as A Christmas Carol, The Picture of Dorian Gray, Cyrano de Bergerac, and Alice in Wonderland, Davis has extended his reach to a genre, which, like film, depends on music to carry the narrative along and to enhance its emotional content. For Alice in Wonderland, Davis has drawn on themes by Pyotr Il'yich Tchaikovsky, the Russian master whose Swan Lake, Sleeping Beauty, and Nutcracker are decidedly the most famous ballets in the world. Davis carefully treads through Tchaikovsky's works, adapting snippets and whole pieces from the less famous scores, such as the tone poems Hamlet and The Tempest, as well as from chamber music, keyboard miniatures, and the less familiar operas. The one borrowing that stands out most egregiously is the third movement from the Symphony No. 5 in E minor, which may work well enough on-stage as a waltz for the scene The Garden of Living Flowers, but on CD feels like an overt rip-off or simple laziness on Davis' part. With this single exception, Alice in Wonderland coheres surprisingly well, and Davis has the grace to let Tchaikovsky's music shine in a familiar idiom, thereby making this a fourth Tchaikovsky ballet by default. This may not satisfy purists, but it will please ballet lovers, and this lively performance by the City of Prague Orchestra will entertain children and adults alike.
Alice in Wonderland Ballet Review
by Blair Sanderson