Notes and Editorial Reviews
This is one of a batch of CDs in a 'My First Album'
series. Naxos founder Klaus Heymann declares this to be "one
of our most important projects with music for children."
The goal is that parents buy these "albums" for their
young children and get them interested in real music
before the omnipresent media ruthlessly drown it out with commercial
pop. Maybe Heymann would not put it quite like that, but art
music, driven to the peripheries of culture by neo-liberal globalisation
and post-modernisation, certainly needs as many initiatives
like this as it can
get, even to maintain its parlous position
in the collective consciousness. What a pity these CDs are not
given away by national health services to every new mother!
Each disc consists of around 15 to 25 pieces of music - bleeding
chunks, to be sure - that have been specially selected (as they
say) as a gentle but inspiring introduction to the subject matter:
in this case ballet. Other volumes feature Tchaikovsky, the
violin, the lullaby, ‘classical music’ and so on. Virtually
all the music consists of single movements drawn from larger
works, but throughout the series a few tracks are marked with
the dread word 'extract': this usually means the
music is ignominiously faded down like a pop song, which can
only be counted as a black mark: if these CDs are to be "the
ideal springboard for a lifelong journey through classical music",
then surely children should understand from the outset that
music is not meant to be faded? That full works are also frequently
lengthy is not a lesson that will be learnt here either, with
the average timing coming in under the three-minute mark, but
that is something probably wisely left for older children.
The two lengthier Tchaikovsky pieces on this disc at least point
in the right direction.
The CD booklets are attractively designed with youngsters in
mind. There’s a fairy-tale-style pencil/pastel drawing on the
cover. There are many smaller colourful ones on every page -
in this volume inevitably including a fair few ballerinas. Inside,
after a brief introduction to the subject - 150 words or so
- each item on the disc is allotted a 'Keyword',
such as 'Cold', 'Fun', 'Yee-Ha!',
'Sword', 'March' or 'Pluck'.
There’s then a paragraph of description, in straightforward
language that should be intelligible to children as young as
five or six, and unpatronising up to about ten or eleven. The
texts enlarge on some of the things going on in the music, either
as heard in the instruments or in the story itself. Generally
there’s a mention of the mood of the piece and often the child
is asked to listen out for something. There is usually at least
one exclamation mark in every paragraph.
The blurb states that the booklet "is full of information
on every piece of music", but that is a bit of an exaggeration.
Most obviously, only the composer's surname is given
in the main text, whereas first names - likely to be of interest
to younger children - and dates of birth and death are relegated
to the small print at the back of the booklet. Unfortunately,
there is not even the most cursory of biographical note on any
of the composers. The back of the booklet is the place to look
too for details of performers, rightly judged to be of little
importance to nascent listeners, but a necessary reference for
parents wishing to delve further into the music, whether on
their child's behalf or perhaps - why not - for themselves.
The introductory to ballet says that "Here is some of the
best music which has propelled dancers for hundreds of years"
- a curious statement, given that the oldest item, Schubert's
Rosamunde music, dates back only to 1823.
Although the topic is probably best left to sociologists, there
is more than a faint whiff of gender stereotyping about some
of the texts. For example, the description of Copland's
Rodeo runs: "One of the cowgirls in this ballet is very
lonely and so she goes to the party after the rodeo, wearing
a beautiful dress: the cowboys all want to dance with her."
As far as the recordings themselves are concerned, it must be
said that Naxos have drawn widely on the back catalogue bargain
basement. Some are twenty years old or more and their age often
shows itself in the quality of the audio, such as in the Andrew
Mogrelia recordings. On the other hand, the intended audience
is not hardcore audiophiles but children, who will probably
not notice. Moreover, some recordings, like the Hoe-Down
or Sabre Dance, have aged well. Still, there seems
no obvious reason why Naxos did not use newer, better recordings
- it is hard to see how there could be any copyright issues
when all the music comes from their own releases.
It is commendable of Naxos to include a couple of more modern
items - Stravinsky's Firebird's Dance
and Shostakovich's Polka giving a digestible
taste of dissonance, and Khachaturian's Sabre Dance
giving some welly.
Asking a six-year-old to sit through seventy-five minutes of
any music is a tall order, but in smaller doses the programme
chosen here - "famous tracks as well as unexpected gems"
- is probably interesting enough to keep children entertained,
even if the Galop Générale from Adam's Giselle
does seem a rather unmemorable choice to end the disc.
-- Byzantion, MusicWeb International Read less
Works on This Recording
Gayaneh: Sabre Dance by Aram Khachaturian
Period: 20th Century
Written: 1942/1957; USSR
Length: 2 Minutes 26 Secs.
Pétrouchka: Danse russe by Igor Stravinsky
Period: 20th Century
Written: 1911/1947; Switzerland
Length: 2 Minutes 49 Secs.
Coppélia: Waltz by Léo Delibes
Length: 2 Minutes 22 Secs.
Coppélia: Mazurka by Léo Delibes
Written: 1870; France
Length: 4 Minutes 11 Secs.
Sylvia: Pizzicati by Léo Delibes
Length: 2 Minutes 18 Secs.
Giselle: Galop général by Adolphe Adam
Written: 1841; France
Length: 3 Minutes 14 Secs.
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