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James Reynolds is an Old Cranleighan who did not begin formal piano lessons until the age of 16, but is now forging a career as a composer. He cites the music of Einaudi and also Liszt’s Un Sospiro as the piece that inspired him, and I remember him winning the 2009 Dashwood Piano Competition with that piece. Nothing particularly remarkable about that, one would think, until one finds out that James learned that piece by rote from his teacher, unable to read a note of music. Clearly, he is a musician with an exceptional ear, a creative mind, and a facility at the instrument.

He gave a lunchtime recital of his own music, and the influences are clear, almost to the point of homage to the composers, but alwaysIMG_3591 presented and developed with his own unique voice. The influence of Einaudi is notable, but I found James’ style to be more imaginative, and contain a greater sense of rhythmic invention and imagination. There is a sense of organic development in James’ music, and the execution presented with both clarity and imagination. His piano pieces have been used in TV trailers for ‘Poirot’ and ‘Lewis’, and it is easy to see why. Often this sort of music is used to enhance a scene rather than become the focus of it, and James’ music is well suited to this. He is not frightened to use imaginative keys and modulations, and the gentle pulsing rhythms of Tumbling Stream and Steam Train Locomotive, in which a real sense of time and motion prevailed, were appealing.

The two Impressions were his most original works; echoes of Debussy, Ravel and Faure never far from the surface, but the syncopated bass lines also reminiscent of two great jazz improvisers, Keith Jarrett and Chick Corea. James takes these influences; the lack of formal structure, the way in which rhythm and timbre combine, and the organic way in which the melody develops, and presents them in a fresh and subtle manner. His humble approach at the piano helps to focus the listener on these subtleties.

James Reynolds is a young composer enjoying some success, whose music is published by Altitude Music, and is deserving of a wider audience. For more details, please visit www.jamesreynoldscomposer.com

Richard Saxel
Head of Performance