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Prokofiev: Peter & The Wolf / Sting, Abbado

Prokofiev / Sting / Coe / Abbado
Release Date: 11/13/2007 
Label:  Deutsche Grammophon   Catalog #: 000819409  
Composer:  Sergei Prokofiev
Performer:  Sting
Conductor:  Claudio Abbado
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Chamber Orchestra of Europe
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
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Notes and Editorial Reviews



PROKOFIEV Peter and the Wolf. March in B?, op. 99. Symphony No. 1, “Classical.” Overture on Hebrew Themes Claudio Abbado, cond; Sting (narr); CO of Europe DEUTSCHE GRAMMOPHON 000819409 (DVD: 58:00)


I had to call in the experts on this one. Jack is seven years old and obviously far wiser than you or I. He’s kindly agreed to consult on the case. Being as Read more professionally diligent as he is erudite, Jack called in Ben (eight years old and a Shakespeare scholar) for a second opinion. Their views tally. For the most part, they like it, though the first appearance of the wolf (manufactured, like all the puppets in this production, by the Spitting Image Workshop) caused some adjustment of the audience’s close viewing position, to a more suitable distance.


The interplay of childhood and experience accounts for much of the power and appeal of Prokofiev’s music, and it’s the same in this whimsical but knowing storybook production. In the “Classical,” the Russian composer (played by British entertainer Roy Hudd) meets his great predecessors in heaven, but along the way he gets to play the Grandfather in Peter. He recaps the role for a touchingly nostalgic encounter with familial ghosts during a winter story set to the Overture (given in the orchestral version).


Jack was busy pointing out similarities between orchestral textures in Peter and the Wolf and some aspects of Vaughan Williams, when I asked him what he thought of the overall production. The DVD is a straight reissue of a well-known 1993 TV and video presentation, instigated by Claudio Abbado. Puppet makers, live actors, and musicians make a continuous story or “Prokofiev Fantasy” that follows Peter and Prokofiev on their adventures, all through the music. Live characters are replaced much of the time by caricature puppets, and the whole thing is crammed with wit and detail. Some grown-ups I know find it all rather clever-clever and arch for children, with dated visual references, but there is never a dull frame. The world of music could open up from this gateway, if you’re lucky.


Picture quality isn’t up to modern digital resolution, but colors are saturated, the sound is fine, and performances are all good. That includes Sting’s narration (he appears as voice and puppet, not in person), and that of his counterpart Roberto Benigni in the parallel Italian-language version. Abbado should have recorded tons more Prokofiev than he has. It’s great to hear the March so sprightly, sad to think of the other Prokofiev marches Abbado could have given us.


Jack liked the Peter and the Wolf section of this (rather short) DVD the best. It ends with a lavish circus procession (no expense spared), but Jack (a newcomer to the story) was most interested in the fate of the duck (an alcoholic), which is very well portrayed here. The rest of the program has no words to help the action. It works better on repetition, as new listeners get to know the music and pictures. But Jack did approve the whole thing, and said he liked and identified with the Peter character. Then he watched it all over again. I think you’d do the same, with whatever wise company you have in your own life.


FANFARE: Paul Ingram
DVD-VIDEO NTSC
STEREO: PCM / SURROUND: DTS 5.1
Picture Format: 4:3
Subtitles: German/French/Spanish/Chinese
A Spitting Swanns production in association with The Media Investment Club and Deutsche Grammophon Gesellschaft Read less

Works on This Recording

1. Peter and the Wolf, Op. 67 by Sergei Prokofiev
Performer:  Sting (Spoken Vocals)
Conductor:  Claudio Abbado
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Chamber Orchestra of Europe
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1936; USSR 
2. Symphony no 1 in D major, Op. 25 "Classical" by Sergei Prokofiev
Conductor:  Claudio Abbado
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Chamber Orchestra of Europe
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1916-1917; Russia 
3. Overture on Hebrew Themes for Orchestra in C minor, Op. 34a by Sergei Prokofiev
Conductor:  Claudio Abbado
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Chamber Orchestra of Europe
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1934; Paris, France 
4. March in B flat major, Op. 99 by Sergei Prokofiev
Conductor:  Claudio Abbado
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Chamber Orchestra of Europe
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1943-1944; USSR 

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