Royal Lullabies - Soothing Music for a Royal Baby
see end of review for track listing and performance details
MEMORY LANE GLM/Y-69 [73:52]
How appropriate to be finishing the review of this disc on the very day that the new Royal baby arrives!
Like any new mother, the Duchess of Cambridge will rapidly discover that the best way to get a baby to sleep is to post it in front of the washing machine, where the white noise and limited view will bore it into a deep slumber. But before Bosch, Miele, Hotpoint et al muscled in on the act, most mothers sang their babies to sleep with songs, or lullabies, handed down through the generations.
But ‘Twinkle twinkle little Star’ and ‘Hush Little Baby’ this is not! It’s a wholly orchestral disc, ‘especially prepared to bring contentment and peace to a baby’; a compilation of ‘timeless melodies that bring peace, a feeling of warmth and tranquillity’, to adults and children alike.
Without a doubt, it is a collection of some of the best known gentle melodies by some of the greatest composers from myriad countries. And performed by some of the most outstanding orchestras, led by some outstanding conductors. These include Carmen Dragon (whose son Daryl Dragon was half of the pop duo Captain and Tenille’, Leopold Stokowski, Sir Thomas Beecham, Herbert von Karajan and Jean Martinon to name but a few. Sadly, none of them are alive to see the birth of the new Royal Prince, and a scant half survived long enough to see Prince William born.
Thereafter, the choice of music is ‘interesting’. Few of the pieces were actually composed for children. There are three pieces entitled ‘Berceuse’; these are wholly acceptable, translating as it does to ‘Cradle Song’ or ‘Lullaby’. Of those that were specifically dedicated to children, they weren’t necessarily written for the composer’s own offspring. Faure’s Dolly Suite, for instance, is a collection of pieces written or revised to mark the milestones of his mistress’ daughter. The featured piece occasioned her first birthday.
Even the Brahms Lullaby, probably the most famous infant melody known to mankind, and most often heard mechanically tinkling out of music boxes or wind up mobiles, is not the epitome of innocence it appears, incorporating, as it does, a hidden counter melody, reflecting a song sung to Brahms himself by an erstwhile lover.
Schumann’s Traumerei or ‘Dreaming’ is taken from his ‘Scenes from Childhood’, 13 pieces of music designed to represent adult reminiscences of his own childhood (it is also the opening and closing theme to the 1947 Hollywood film ‘Song of Love’ starring Katharine Hepburn).
The other pieces are quite delightful in themselves but bear little relation to lullabies, babies or royalty. For my preference I’d have knocked the Massenet’s Elegie off the playlist, as its downward chromatic passages, whilst perfectly acceptable to the adult ear, could easily invoke the presence of the bogyman to a young child. Likewise I’d take a miss on Faure’s Pavane, which begins gently enough but has enough crashing climaxes to wake a cemetery, let alone a half dormant infant.
There’s a good chance that A Musical Snuffbox may turn out to be Baby Cambridge’s favoured track. Good luck to Kate explaining what one of those is to her young boy! I had enough trouble describing the concept of the vinyl record to my children!
Is this a disc of Royal Lullabies? Not really. Would I be horribly cynical in suggesting that this was a gently taken opportunity to dress up some elderly recordings of beautiful music for resale? There was the potential here to commission some new material by contemporary composers in commemoration of the Royal birth. But it wasn’t taken.
As for Prince Cambridge, I heartily hope he’ll hear his mother sing to him night after night. That’s the way it should be.
Overall, this is still a lovely disc to possess. Published by Memory Lane, it will doubtless be a reminder of 2013 and the Royal birth. Comprising a compilation of classical favourites, it’s probably a bit cheeky to be calling it ‘Royal Lullabies’ (Soothing Music for a Royal Baby), but hey ho! What’s in a name? Although to the currently unnamed Prince, probably quite a lot!
A reminder of 2013 and the Royal birth.
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1. Lullaby (Brahms) [2.24]
2. Serenade from ‘Schwanengesang’ [4.41]
3. Traumerei from ‘Kinderszenen’ [3.31]
4. Elegie (Massenet) [4.02]
5. Clair de Lune from ‘Suite Bergamasque’ [5.31]
6. Pavane (Faure) [5.14]
7. A Musical Snuffbox [2.09]
8. Aquarium from the ‘The Carnival of the Animals’ [2.25]
9. Venus from ‘The Planets’ Suite conducting the [8.24]
10. Italiana from ‘Ancient Airs & Dances’ Suite No 3 [3.45]
11. Clarinet Concerto in A - Second Movement (Mozart) [8.55]
12. Nocturne from ‘A Midsummer’s Night Dream’ conducting the [6.27]
13. Berceuse from ‘Dolly’ Suite [3.25]
14. Solveig’s Song from ‘Peer Gynt’ Suite No 2 [3.25]
15. Adagietto from ‘L’Arlesienne’ Suite No 1 [2.44]
16. Berceuse from ‘Jeux d’Enfants’ [3.07]
17. Berceuse (Jarnefelt) [3.33]
Capitol SO (1,14,15,17) Hollywood Bowl SO (2-4)/Carmen Dragon
Leopold Stokowski and his Symphony Orchestra (5)
l’ORTF Ntl O/Sir Thomas Beecham (6,13)
Royal PO/Efrem Kurtz (7)
Leo Litwin & Samuel Lipman, Boston Pops O/Arthur Fiedler (8)
Vienna PO/Herbert von Karajan (9)
Philharmonia Hungarica/Antal Dorati (10)
Jack Brymer, Royal PO/Sir Thomas Beecham (11)
London SO/Peter Maag (12)
Paris Conservatoire O/Jean Martinon (16)
No recording dates/venues provided