Lanchbery: Tales of Beatrix Potter

John Lanchbery

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Lanchbery: Tales of Beatrix Potter Review

by Patsy Morita

Tales of Beatrix Potter was a ballet developed by Britain's Royal Ballet specifically for a film project in 1971, which was later turned into a stage production in the early '90s. This disc features most of the music written by John Lanchbery for the original film. Lanchbery spent most of his career as a ballet conductor and arranged music for many productions, usually based on the works of other composers. Some of his more famous work were "translations" of operas -- such as Die Fledermaus -- into ballets. Lanchbery's music for Tales of Beatrix Potter is more original, more Lanchbery, than much of his other music. It's primarily based on folk tunes, dances, and songs that Potter herself would recognize. This makes it more appealing to those today who would also know those melodies, but it still has an ability to charm those who know and love Potter's little books. Captured in clear, vibrant sound, he and the Orchestra of the Royal Opera House deliver it with a lot of liveliness, energy, and even strength, indicating the athleticism of the dancers, but there is also very present a sense that they know this is mock drama, geared toward children. Adults will find it Keystone Kop funny at times and veddy English at others. Although it's best when experienced in the film (available on DVD) or stage version, even without the accompanying visual of the dancers in costumes that look remarkably like Potter's paintings, the narrative and the characters of the stories are obvious in Lanchbery's music.

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