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Children’s Games
Georges BIZET (1838-1875)

Jeux d’enfants (1871) [10.14]*
Paul DUKAS (1865-1935)

The Sorcerer’s Apprentice (1897) [10.11]
Gabriel FAURÉ (1845-1924)

Dolly Suite Op.56 orchestrated Rabaud (1894-97 orchestrated 1906) [17.20]**
Anatole LIADOV (1855-1914)

The Musical Box Op.32 (published 1893) [1.37]*
Pyotr Ilyich TCHAIKOVSKY (1840-1893)

The Nutcracker Suite Op.71a (1892) [23.21]+
Walter MOURANT (1937-1995)

The Pied Piper [4.37]++
Marisa ROBLES (b.1937)

Themes for Narnia – from The Narnia Suite (1981-82) [3.18]#
Darius MILHAUD (1892-1974)

Brazileira – from Scaramouche Op.165b (1937) [2.25]##
Mexico City Philharmonic Orchestra/Enrique Bátiz*
Academy of St-Martin-in the-Fields/Neville Marriner**
RPO/ Enrique Bátiz+
George MacDonald (clarinet)/Northern Sinfonia of England/Stuart Bedford++
The Marisa Robles Ensemble/Christopher Hyde-Smith (flute and piccolo)#
Emma Johnson (clarinet) and Gordon Back (piano)##
No recording dates or locations
SANCTUARY CD RSN 3046 [73.21]


Designed and compiled with an eye on the children’s market, hence the rubric File under Children’s Music, this is an eye-catching release from Sanctuary - Snakes and Ladders in blue and yellow. It revisits the ASV back catalogue to mine Bátiz’s Mexico City recordings of Bizet, Dukas and Liadov and the same conductor’s Tchaikovsky with the RPO. Marriner chips in with Fauré’s Dolly Suite in the Rabaud orchestration and there are some delightful miniatures from diverse sources to complete the programme.

Obviously the recorded world is hardly lacking in recordings of The Nutcracker or of The Sorcerer’s Apprentice but judicious repackaging of the back catalogue is part of the business and this has been pleasurably done in this instance, serving its ostensible brief well. I’m not going to pretend that any of these recordings is a front-runner, when clearly they’re not, but the ensemble package is a sportive idea and if it encourages someone to take a chance and introduce The Musical Box to an inquisitive child then I’m all for it.

Bátiz directs a pleasing Jeux d’enfants. There’s nothing especially distinctive about it in terms of orchestral sonority or pacing, except that perhaps the finale, the Gallop, whilst strongly accented is a touch fast for my taste. The highlight is probably Lullaby, which is commendably attractive and not over succulent. The Dukas could do with some more bite but the RPO Tchaikovsky is well sprung and particularly well recorded. The flautists are on song in the Danse chinoise and the violas and cellos sing out warmly in the Valse des fleurs. Altogether this is a warm, un-egocentric and musical account that will give pleasure. Marriner’s Dolly Suite doesn’t put a foot wrong when it comes to matters of articulation and tempo, nor indeed to string tone. This is relaxed and expressive music making. At a couple of points Marriner urges a greater weight of string expression – in Berceuse and Tendresse – and that’s just enough to inject a frisson into the performance.

The three more contemporary pieces are a particular pleasure. Yes we all know the Milhaud but children won’t. But you may not know Mourant’s The Pied Piper, a graceful and winning four and a half minute workout for the clarinet. Or indeed Marisa Robles’ Themes for Narnia, which has an almost hypnotically evocative curve.

Rather a specialised disc then, for a particular niche market. Luckily the performances are never less than good and the recording quality consistently excellent. As an example of targeted repackaging it makes a strong case.

Jonathan Woolf

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