Sergei PROKOFIEV (1891 - 1953)
Cinderella* Suite from the Ballet
Pytor Ilyich TCHAIKOVSKY (1840 - 1893)
Suite from the Ballet
National Symphony Orchestra
of Ukraine* Cond. Theodore Kuchar*
Brian Cant (Narrator) Slovak State Philharmonic Orchestra** Cond. Andrew
Naxos 8.554610 DDD
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.
see also previous review by Ian Lace