Prokofiev Peter and the Wolf
This CD is aimed primarily at the American market, but even so, Sophia Loren’s charming narration of Peter and the Wolf has a universal appeal. Children will surely love its friendly simplicity and innocence, and adults will appreciate the way this fine actress, without being in the least self-conscious, identifies totally with the story. She is helped by Kent Nagano’s alert yet relaxed pacing, and some superb individual characterisations by the orchestral soloists, especially the cat – so feline and slinky on the clarinet (the solo describing the dash up the tree, with its falling closing cadence almost a miaow, is most telling). Grandfather, too, is pert and dapper, yet persuasive in his authority on the bassoon, and the oboe’s melancholy is very winning at the close, when Loren’s last words are so gentle and touching. She makes one realise that the situation of the duck alive inside the wolf brings a dilemma virtually impossible to resolve, a perception which children readily share.
This problem has motivated the retelling of the story by Walt Kraemer to suit modern ‘wolf-friendly’ sensibilities. Jean-Pascal Beintus’ score is agreeable but unmemorable, and adds little to the narrative. The telling of the tale by Bill Clinton, though undoubtedly sympathatic, becomes increasingly and cloyingly sentimental, and the otherwise admirable moral, ‘The time has come to leave the wolves alone’, is elaborated ad nauseam.
Mikhail Gorbachev provides a brief but cliché-ridden Prologue, Intermezzo, and Epilogue in Russian, which is spoken in translation by Sergei Marko: one wonders whether the former Russian President could not have managed by himself. Still, the sales of this record bring donations to various worthwhile causes, with each of the major participants donating their royalties to the charity of their choice, including, of course, the Wolf Conservation Centre (see www.nywolf.org for more details).