Baby Needs Beethoven
Ludwig van BEETHOVEN (1770-1827)
Bagatelle in A minor, WoO59 'Für Elise' [3:05]
'Scene by the Brook' (from: 'Pastoral' Symphony in F, op.68) [12:27]
Tempo di Minuetto (from: Septet in E flat, op.20) [3:08]
Bagatelle in G minor, op.119 no.1 [1:51]
Bagatelle in C, op.119 no.2 [1:14]
Bagatelle in D, op.119 no.3 [1:31]
Rondo: Allegro ma non troppo (from: Quintet in E flat, for piano and winds, op.16) [5:31]
Andante cantabile con moto (from: Symphony no. 1 in C, op.21) [7:35]
Scherzo (from: Septet in E flat, op.20) [3:04]
Bagatelle in A, op.119 no.4 [2:22]
Bagatelle in A minor, op.119 no.9 [0:38]
Bagatelle in B flat, op.119 no.11 [1:43]
'Happy and Thankful Feelings after the Storm' (from: 'Pastoral' Symphony in F, op.68) [10:04]
Andante cantabile (from: Quintet in E flat, for piano and winds, op.16) [8:04]
Andante con moto (from: String Quartet in D, op.18 no.3) [8:40]
Carol Rosenberger (piano) (Bagatelles, Quintet)
Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center (Septet)
Allan Vogel (oboe), David Shifrin (clarinet), Robin Graham (horn), Ken Munday (bassoon) (Quintet)
Orford String Quartet
New York Chamber Symphony/Gerard Schwarz (‘Pastoral’)
Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra/Gerard Schwarz (Symphony no.1)
rec. No details given. DDD
DELOS DE1610 [70:59] 

Correlating listening to art music with intellectual advancement is a risky gambit in a post-modern culture that nurtures the short attention span. The Delos blurb for their 'Baby Needs' series, originally released over a decade ago, 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."
Current received 'wisdom' avers that art music is mainly for old people, but Delos know that to be nonsense on stilts, rightly insisting that Beethoven wrote music "for the ages - all ages". 'Baby Needs Beethoven' is one thoughtful, non-trivial collection among many in this series, offering infants and toddlers - not to mention mums and dads - a gentle but varied "musical bridge between play time and quiet time".
In fact, the pieces on offer here may not all be those that the average Beethoven-lover would automatically come up with for such a programme. Indeed, there is more than a hint that less thought has gone into the selections for this particular disc. This is not entirely the "program of gentle music" the back cover promises. For example, the Septet movements are rather lively pieces, if the aim is to prepare babies' minds for relaxation or sleep - the notes themselves describe them as "light-hearted and fun". Ditto many of the Bagatelles. The movement from the Symphony no.1 is slower but rather loud in places. Playtime - yes, bedtime - no!
Clearly, Beethoven's oeuvre is much less amenable to being dipped into at will for an unwinding piece than Mozart's is (see 'Baby Needs More Mozart', DE 1614 - see review). Yet that is not to suggest that youngsters' moods will not benefit from hearing these, or virtually any piece of Beethoven's magnificent music - only perhaps that there is greater potential benefit initially to parents looking for a halfway decent introduction to Beethoven or art music. In that regard, performances are all of good quality, with no shortage of well-known names cropping up throughout the series. In audio terms there is a slight left-channel bias, and the sound in general is rather subdued. In some places quality is a little patchier than on other discs: the movements from the Pastoral Symphony, for example, come across as rather lossy-sounding. On the other hand, it is fair to say that babies are unlikely to notice!
The booklet - somewhat surprisingly, perhaps - supplies proper notes on the music, written for adults without preamble in straightforward language but without trivialising the music. In fact the author makes no bones about saying things that would have the post-modern critic or academic choking on his or her latte: that Beethoven's String Quartets, for example, may well be "the ultimate pinnacle of Western music". Curiously, the series promises "new ways to help your child fall in love with classical music": but does being exposed to music from the earliest age really constitute a "new way"?
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Performances all of good quality, with no shortage of well-known names cropping up.