Baby Needs More Mozart
Wolfgang Amadeus MOZART (1756-1791)
*'Der Vogelfänger bin ich ja' (arrangement from: The Magic Flute) [2:06]
Andante (from: Piano Sonata in C, K.545) [4:38]
#'Bei Männern, welche Liebe fühlen' (arrangement from: The Magic Flute) [3:19]
Andante (from: Divertimento no.1, K.136) [6:22]
Andante (from: String Quartet no.23, K.590) [8:49]
Adagio (from: Piano Concerto no.27 in B flat, K.595) [7:46]
Adagio (from: Piano Sonata in F, K. 332) [5:50]
Adagio (from: Clarinet Concerto in A, K.622) [7:56]
Andante (from: Piano Concerto no. 21 in C, K.467) [7:20]
Andante (from: Divertimento no.3, K.138) [6:10]
Carol Rosenberger (piano) (sonatas, concertos)
*Jean-Pierre Rampal, Claudi Arimany (flutes)
#Eugenia Zukerman (flute), Allan Vogel (oboe), Dennis Helmrich (piano)
Shanghai Quartet
Moscow Chamber Orchestra/Constantine Orbelian (piano concertos, divertimenti)
David Shifrin (clarinet), New York Chamber Symphony/Gerard Schwarz (Clarinet Concerto)
rec. No details given. DDD
DELOS DE1614 [60:17] 

It was Mozart's Sonata in D for two pianos that gave birth to the so-called "Mozart Effect" twenty-odd years ago. This in turn sparked the release of a flurry of albums made up of various combinations of the composer's effortlessly mellifluous and relaxing adagios, andantes and other famous odds and ends. Like many things, the Mozart Effect turned out to be based on fairly flimsy inferences, though the industry that sprang up around it still flourishes. Nevertheless, research and circumstantial evidence abound suggesting that many pieces of art music are significantly more soothing - and certainly less nettlesome - than almost any other genre.
Correlating listening to art music with intellectual advancement is a risky gambit in a post-modern culture that luxuriates in the lowest common denominator, but Delos's blurb for their 'Baby Needs' series pulls no punches: "Research indicates that listening to classical music promotes learning and improves problem-solving skills, with Mozart's music currently heading the list. With this in mind, Delos introduces a series focused on developing intellectual capabilities right from the start", taking into account "the special needs of the very young". The 'Baby Needs' discs were first released at the end of the 20th century. More than a decade on, a reissue would appear well timed, with more adults than ever seemingly under the misapprehension that young children require some or other variety of pop blasted at them at every opportunity.
At any rate, 'Baby Needs More Mozart' is a thoughtful but non-trivial collection, offering infants and toddlers - and mums and dads - a gentle but varied "musical bridge between play time and quiet time". Whether or not all of these pieces are entirely suited to their given aim is a moot question: with so much to choose from in Mozart's oeuvre, the valedictory second movement of his last String Quartet K.590 seems a rather gloomy piece to go for. On the other hand, it does seem highly likely that almost any music by Mozart, given its supremely Classical melodies, rhythms and forms, will prove attractive to young listeners, especially if it is to function primarily as mood or background music for the first few years. Curiously, the series promises "new ways to help your child fall in love with classical music" - does being exposed to music from the earliest age really constitute a "new way"?
Parents, incidentally, or indeed any adult looking for some music to kick off their shoes to, no questions asked, should also find their needs well met by this widely appealing series. Performances are all of good quality, with no shortage of well-known names. Sound is a little subdued but generally admirable. The booklet - somewhat surprisingly, perhaps - does supply proper notes on the music, written for adults without preamble in straightforward language without trivialising the music.
Naxos recently embarked on their own similar 'My First Album' series (see this review, for example), which founder Klaus Heymann declared "one of our most important projects with music for children." Though in a similar price range, in terms of quality of performance, sound and overall programming, these Delos discs are a clear winner.
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A clear winner.