Michael MORPURGO (born 5 October 1943)
The Mozart Question (concert version, 2010)
Includes extracts from Beethoven Violin Concerto [4.56]: Vivaldi The Four Seasons [2.39+3.27]: Bach Violin Sonata No 1 [3.01]: J Strauss the Younger The Blue Danube [4.36]: Messiaen Quartet for the end of time [2.53]:* Mozart Rondo in G [0.45]: Eine kleine Nachtmusik [2.02]: Violin Concerto No 4 [7.12]
Michael Morpurgo (Paolo), Alison Reid (Lesley), Jack Liebeck (violin), London Philharmonic Orchestra/Nicholas Collon: *Pieter Schoeman (violin), Suzanne Beer (cello), Robert Hill (clarinet), Catherine Edwards (piano)
rec. Abbey Road Studios, London, 18 March 2012
LPO 0067 [75.32]
Michael Morpurgo was quite suddenly catapulted to a world-wide international reputation in 2011 by Steven Spielbergís film of his book War Horse. However, for many years since the 1970s he had been building a solid foundation of work in Britain with his stories for children. The Mozart Question, like War Horse, looks at the horrors and devastation of the twentieth century through the eyes of innocence, and yet manages to convey a message of ultimate hope. The story revolves around an interview with an international violinist who talks about his childhood and the way in which his passion for the violin brought about a reunion between his parents and his teacher, all former inmates of a concentration camp where they had to perform Mozart as the prisoners were led to their deaths.
The plot calls for a considerable amount of music, and the LPO presented a concert version of the score in 2010 which has now been taken into the studio for this recording. It is not the first time they have issued a record featuring the spoken word and aimed at children. Some years ago they released a recording of The snowman (based on the picture book by Robert Briggs, with music by Howard Blake) coupled with settings by Paul Patterson of two of Roald Dahlís Revolting rhymes. The latter received a very po-faced review in Fanfare by a critic who was concerned about the effect that Dahlís acerbically ironic take on the original fairy stories would have on impressionable children, which seemed to completely miss the point. The older children at whom The Mozart Question is directed could surely derive nothing but the right message from this touchingly unsentimental tale.
The author himself takes the lionís share of the dramatic performance as the now ageing concert violinist, with Alison Reid as his young interviewer. Both are superb, underplaying the drama in the manner of a radio play and hitting just the right note throughout. There are almost no sound effects - the noise of clipping scissors in the barberís shop comes as a bit of a shock Ė I thought my CD player was going wrong - but the story hardly needs them. It stands on its own feet as a well-wrought period drama which also carries a heartbreaking message for the present day.
The musical extracts, some of them edited for this recording, are well served by a slimmed-down LPO. Jack Liebeck is poised and precise in his assumption of the role of the elderly violinist. The booklet also includes a chatty note on the music performed by Carenza Hugh-Jones, which seems to be aimed at an audience rather younger than the story itself.
I thoroughly enjoyed listening to this release, and so will many adults as well as the children for whom the story was originally written. It will make them think too.
Paul Corfield Godfrey
I thoroughly enjoyed listening to this, and so will many adults as well as the children for whom the story was originally written. It will make them think too.

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