Birchall: The Wind in the Willows; Alice in Wonderland

Reviewed on Tue 06 Jun, 2017

Needless to report, Simon Callow is in his element, displaying his customary narrative flair and offering a vivid array of vocal characterisations.

A composition student of Giles Swayne at Cambridge University, and founder member of Cellophony, Richard Birchall, has devised these wholly charming adaptations of two much-loved children's classics. Early on in the 'Prologue' to The Wind in the Willows, there's the merest hint of a nod towards Prokofiev's Peter and the Wolf, an affectionate tribute which then becomes altogether more manifest in the portrait of Mr Mole which follows. Shostakovich and Britten also loom large over Birchall's personable musical landscape, but the overall effect both here and in the companion adaptation of Alice in Wonderland is wholly engaging, and the scoring for cello octet is consistently imaginative and highly resourceful. Needless to report, Simon Callow is in his element, displaying his customary narrative flair and offering a vivid array of vocal characterisations. I can imagine both works creating an immediate impact in concert. Expertly supervised by Jonathan Cooper in his multiple roles of producer, engineer and editor, this coupling is guaranteed to serve up oodles of pleasure and warm-hearted fun for young and old alike.
–Andrew Achenbach