Clumsy, episodic, humorless, and poorly-played versions of three beloved children's classics. Unfortunately, this is the only disc which brings all three works together. Although the price is a bargain, you owe it to your children to do better.
In the Britten, no one has yet improved upon the incredible logic and drive of the composer's own recording. Leonard Bernstein's recording of Carnival is wonderfully played, and his narration should be especially helpful to youngster's encountering the music for the first time. Even adults could learn a thing or two from the maestro's comments. George Prêtre's colorful and lively recording (without narration) is also recommended. Bernstein's Peter and the Wolf is the preferred version of that score both for the freshness of the interpretation and the charm and humanity with which the conductor tells the tale. However, your kids might be more inclined to give Sting's recording a listen. The celebrated rock star clearly has a great deal of fun with the story, and Claudio Abbado's brilliant conducting gives Bernstein a run for his money.
Adults wishing to revisit their childhood should haunt used record stores for Dudley Moore's hilarious reading (with text by M*A*S*H's Larry Gelbart and John Williams conducting the Boston Pops) and Alan Sherman's timeless Peter and the Commissar with Fiedler leading the Pops – a leading candidate for immediate CD reissue.
Copyright © 1995, Thomas Godell.
This review originally appeared in the American Record Guide