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Sergei PROKOFIEV (1891-1953)
Peter and the Wolf (1936) [23.29]
Jean-Paul BEINTUS (b.1966)

Wolf Tracks (2002) [18.58]
Mikhail Gorbachev (narrator)
Sophia Loren (narrator)
Bill Clinton (narrator)
Russian National Orchestra/Kent Nagano
rec Scottish Rite Center, Oakland, California, USA, August, March 2002

People and nature should live in harmony, musical and otherwise, is the message, or ‘enjoy the animals but leave them be’. Given its intention of promoting the wildlife preservationist message of conserving the wolf, this project is fortunate to have had Prokofiev’s work as a role model. Judging by Mikhail Gorbachev’s promise (or was that a threat?) that he is sure we will meet him and his co-narrators Sophia Loren and Bill Clinton again before too long, there will probably be a CD of Taverner’s The Whale coupled with a contemporary composer’s work (preferably Icelandic or Japanese).

The narrators never met the orchestra, Loren and Clinton contributing their bit four months later in Switzerland, Gorbachev six months later in Moscow. Gorbachev speaks in Russian and is faded out after each sentence for his words to be translated by his interpreter, chief executive of the Russian National Orchestra, Sergei Markov. Loren narrates Peter and the Wolf with a thick Italian accent, strange inflections and wrong emphasis, all delivered with a flat voice - a bit of coaching might have helped. Clinton sounds as if he is before a TV camera, and about to deliver one of those State of the Union speeches starting with the words ‘My fellow Americans’, in short, there’s a lot of sanctimonious claptrap both on the CD and in the booklet.

A double bass player in Nagano’s Lyon Opera Orchestra, Beintus’s music is a film-music score, its attractive style lapsing into fellow-Lyonnais Maurice Jarré at its best, sentimental Richard Clayderman at its worst. Nagano’s orchestra play slickly, with a smooth-as-silk sheen to the string sound. At least Prokofiev’s music, unlike his wolf, survives unscathed. Strictly for the kids (and no harm in that, as it is the future generation for whom this message is intended), but perhaps also for werewolves. Approach with caution.

Christopher Fifield

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