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53 Studies on Chopin Études 1
Konstantin Scherbakov (piano)







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




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