Notes and Editorial Reviews
Born in Ontario in August 1919, Tommy Reilly studied violin from the age of eight, and began playing harmonica at the age of eleven. Though he had played in England in 1935 – 37 and continental Europe in 1937 – 39, it was not until his arrest (while studying violin at the Leipzig Conservatory) and subsequent internment 1939 – 45 in prisoner-of-war camps that he developed his virtuosity on the harmonica, basing his ideas of phrasing and interpretation on the playing of Jascha Heifetz. Returning to London in 1945, Reilly began parallel careers as a concert soloist and recitalist, a popular BBC radio and television performer, and a studio musician-composer. He performed with most of the major European orchestras and toured all over the world as a concert soloist. Inspiring the composition of more than thirty works by other composers, Reilly also transcribed a great deal of repertoire for the instrument, in addition to composing his own works. In 1967 he designed a concert harmonica, later manufactured by Hohner and marketed as the Silver Concerto Chromonica. In 1992, he became the first harmonica player to be made a Member of the Order of the British Empire. His other awards included the Gold Medal of the Deutscher Harmonika-Verband, and a Golden Badge from the British Association of Composers, Authors and Songwriters. Sir Neville Marriner and Igor Stravinsky were among those who admired his playing.
The colours Reilly managed to produce, the technical barriers he overcame and the unrivalled musicality he evinced on the instrument are stunningly audible throughout this disc. There is a huge amount here to entertain the keen listener. Reilly’s commercial discography is saluted but the archive is successfully mined for off-air material that summon up a time, a place and an era. Reilly was the wizard at the centre of it all, a supreme colourist, the George Malcolm of the harmonica. Or perhaps Malcolm was the Tommy Reilly of the Harpsichord.
– MusicWeb International