Classical Editor: Rob Barnett

Music Webmaster
Len Mullenger:

(1891 - 1953)
Cinderella* Suite from the Ballet 39'13"
(1840 - 1893)
Sleeping Beauty**
Suite from the Ballet
National Symphony Orchestra of Ukraine* Cond. Theodore Kuchar*
Brian Cant (Narrator) Slovak State Philharmonic Orchestra** Cond. Andrew Mogrelia **
Naxos 8.554610  DDD [69'53"]
 Amazon UK  Amazon USA

What a good idea for a CD. Take two classic, timeless stories that everyone knows which already have music that fits the story lines, add a narrator to tell the tales, and there you are. This Naxos disc is clearly targeted at children. Not that I expect many children under six will be out browsing through the Classical section at their local record shop. No, what the marketing people have done is to try to catch the eyes of parents or grandparents by designing an eye-catching CD insert in semi-cartoon form and incorporating in the rear-of-box details a photograph of the story-teller Brian Cant - probably well-known to the parents from their own earlier days when they would have watched him in childrens' programmes on the telly.

The Prokofiev Cinderella, begun in 1940 and finished in '44, followed his splendid Romeo and Juliet score and there are some obvious similarities. Written for the Kirov as a full-length Ballet, Prokoviev later wrote three orchestral Suites from the material - reworked and changed for their new symphonic format. In the form used on this disc the material is drawn from all three Suites.

Naturally Prokofiev's own Peter and the Wolf is recalled. In Peter, though, the narration is written into the score - here the Cinderella reading is an add-on. Inevitably and quite properly the story-telling begins with "Once upon a time" and then links and concludes the eight orchestral movements. For Tchaikovsky's Sleeping Beauty, the material is the six-movement Suite from the full ballet and again the Narrator starts the story and continues it between movements. Brian Cant characterised a number of the parts and was convincing as he did. The script did not "write-down" to a likely child listener, but would be easily understood by one throughout.

I doubt a serious critique of the orchestral playing and its nuances is called for here - it isn't that sort of disc. Enough to say that the playing is perfectly satisfactory from the two orchestras sharing the playing and a good clear recording helps.

Minor reservations limited the disc's appeal - but I am not listening as a six year old. The change in acoustic between that for a full orchestra in richly scored music over to a voice obviously elsewhere was a let-down. And the reading itself I found a touch too flat and almost too formal. I would think that a listening child would expect don't and won't rather than the more formal do not or will not. Written words seldom come over as they are intended and what reads well on a page can sound a touch rigid when spoken non-colloquially.


Harry Downey


see also previous review by Ian Lace



Harry Downey

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