One of the most grown-up review sites around

54,416 reviews
and more.. and still writing ...

Search MusicWeb Here



International mailing

Founder: Len Mullenger                                    Editor in Chief:John Quinn             


Some items
to consider

new MWI
Current reviews

old MWI
pre-2023 reviews

paid for

Acte Prealable Polish recordings

Forgotten Recordings
Forgotten Recordings
All Forgotten Records Reviews

Troubadisc Weinberg- TROCD01450

All Troubadisc reviews

FOGHORN Classics

Brahms String Quartets

All Foghorn Reviews

All HDTT reviews

Songs to Harp from
the Old and New World

all Nimbus reviews

all tudor reviews

Follow us on Twitter

Editorial Board
MusicWeb International
Founding Editor
Rob Barnett
Editor in Chief
John Quinn
Contributing Editor
Ralph Moore
   David Barker
Jonathan Woolf
MusicWeb Founder
   Len Mullenger




Sergei PROKOFIEV (1891-1953)
Peter and the Wolf Op. 67 (1936) [26:07]
Camille SAINT-SAËNS (1835-1921)
The Carnival of the Animals (1886) [26:02]
Jonathan Winters (story-teller)
Hephzibah Menuhin and Abbey Simon (pianists) (Carnival)
Philharmonia Orchestra/Efrem Kurtz
rec. dates and locations not given
EMI CLASSICS CHC-7 49918 2  [52:09]


This CD, an Arkiv reissue with full booklet notes by James Harding, was originally released in 1989. This is of course not the end of the story. The performances, by the Philharmonia Orchestra on top form, were recorded 22-23 April 1959 and released with UK numbering HMV Mono ALP 1728/Stereo ASD 299, and in the US: CAPITOL Mono G 7211/ Stereo SG7211. The narrator for Peter and the Wolf on the original was Michael Flanders, of Flanders & Swann fame. This was also re-issued on the HMV ‘Greensleeve’ label, with Britten’s ‘Young Person’s Guide to the Orchestra’.

It would appear that the ‘straight’ narration of Michael Flanders was considered too old-fashioned by EMI, who recorded Jonathan Winters’ contribution in 1989 and superimposed it on the old Philharmonia tape. Winters, the ‘one man theatrical troupe’ has numerous comedic credits to his name, and has an appropriately deep and expressive voice for a narrator in this piece. I will freely admit that, in defending Michael Flanders, the contribution of this LP to my entire formative years is about as bad a case of bias as you will find. That said; I prefer the narrator in Peter and the Wolf just to tell the story, allowing the music and the imagination of the listener to take front seat. I once saw Sir Michael Hordern do it live, and he was excellent - knowing exactly what not to do with the narrative. Jonathan Winters is given free rein to do animal impersonations, vocal sound effects and the like, not all of which have anything to do with the music at all. My apologies to any teenagers who have grown up with this particular version, but if you get the chance, try a ‘straight’ version as well if you can. Fans of the piece should also most certainly get hold of a copy of the animated film version by Suzie Templeton, which does without any narration at all.

Given the difference in recording dates between the orchestra and narrator, EMI did a good job linking the two. If you didn’t know, you probably wouldn’t notice. The Philharmonia, in stereo of course, sounds as fresh as it ever did, with just a bit less gloss on the strings than you might expect from a digital recording. The drums are spectacular however, the instrumental solos wonderful as ever, and my daughter was suitably unnerved by the menacing music as the wolf prowls around and snaps at the bird.

Now we come to Carnival of the Animals, which has also been messed around with. Not content with leaving well alone, Ogden Nash’s humorous poems on the piece have been added, the beginning of each track – each animal, having a verse pasted in. I find this irritating in the extreme. Perhaps someone should write some amusing texts on each of Elgar’s Enigma Variations and see if that raises our comprehension of the music by popping it between the tracks. Grafting Nash’s verses onto Saint-Saëns’s music – good as they are – misses the point entirely. The musical sketches are just that, wonderful line drawings dashed off for the entertainment of some friends. Garlanding them with anything extra is tautologous nonsense, disrupting the poetry innate in the music and the continuity between what are almost all very short pieces. Yes, you say, but this is a CD for children, who like this kind of thing. No, children like music, and they like being read to – they don’t need to be patronised by having musical descriptions of animals further pointed out by a big gruff American. Part of the fun of the piece is the guessing game you can play trying to identify the animals from the music, and I resent having this element forcibly removed. With every respect for Jonathan Winter’s undeniable talents, my request to EMI would be to make a serious re-issue of these wonderful recordings, Mr. Flanders included, as well as the original artwork for the 1959 album. They can also revive the original sleeve notes as well, if only because they were written by someone called Leonard Duck.

Dominy Clements




Advertising on

Donate and keep us afloat


New Releases

Naxos Classical
All Naxos reviews

Chandos recordings
All Chandos reviews

Hyperion recordings
All Hyperion reviews

Foghorn recordings
All Foghorn reviews

Troubadisc recordings
All Troubadisc reviews

all cpo reviews

Divine Art recordings
Click to see New Releases
Get 10% off using code musicweb10
All Divine Art reviews

All APR reviews

Lyrita recordings
All Lyrita Reviews


Wyastone New Releases
Obtain 10% discount



Return to Review Index

Untitled Document

Reviews from previous months
Join the mailing list and receive a hyperlinked weekly update on the discs reviewed. details
We welcome feedback on our reviews. Please use the Bulletin Board
Please paste in the first line of your comments the URL of the review to which you refer.