Prokofiev: “Peter and the Wolf” / Saint-Saëns: “Carnival of the Animals” – Beatrice Lillie, Animals of the London Zoo and London Symphony Orchestra conducted by Skitch Henderson
For those who enjoy a pun, Saint-Saëns’s Carnival of the Animals and Prokofiev’s symphonic tale for children Peter and the Wolf might well be described as “beastly”. And this recording makes no exception for it is, indeed, quite spectacular! Both works are introduced by the roaring and screaming of the inhabitants of London Zoo. The individual orchestral instruments are introduced during the course of the music and are commented upon by a human voice in a narrative.
The characters and animals are each given a characteristic theme which is presented by a particular instrument or register. While Prokofiev wrote his composition with a pedagogic purpose in mind, Saint-Saëns’s main aim was to create a piece of musical fun. The mischievous work not only offers a lively depiction of various animals and even hollow-sounding fossils (by means of the xylophone), but also contains numerous tongue-in-cheek references to works by great composers.
These two musical masterpieces combine humour with education in a thoroughly fascinating and enchanting manner and are equally loved by children and adults alike. The interpretation and sound of this DECCA LP certainly earns first prize for being “beastly”!
Recording: February 1960 at Kingsway Hall, London by Kenneth E. Wilkinson / Production: John Culshaw