Prokofiev Peter and the Wolf; Cinderella
These two new versions of Peter and the Wolf have in common outstandingly full and brilliant recorded sound and uncommonly winning narrations. Otherwise they hardly come into competition, so different are they. The very difference of timing between them; some two minutes which in half an hour is a sizeable discrepancy, brings out the basic contrast. Madame Line Prokofiev, the composer's first wife, now in her late eighties, gives a disarmingly grandmotherly account of the narration, making it dramatic and full of colour, but inevitably taking her time. That matches Jarvi's view of the score, which is much more freely expressive, as well as generally slower than Previn's. He is very persuasive, and draws beautiful playing from the Scottish National Orchestra, but marginally I prefer Previn's much fresher, lighter, more sharply rhythmic manner, which has more of childlike fantasy in it. At the end his procession swaggers even more joyously than Jarvi's. As for Previn's narration, it is masterly, so natural in its direct communication with a child of any age, that he makes most rivals sound self-conscious. Yet the detailed pointing is delightful too, tipping the wink in humour on such lines as ''What kind of a bird are you! and ''... from the middle of the pond'', and making the whole story vividly alive. His timing is so exactly matched to the performance, that the arrival of the wolf is far more sinister than with Jarvi (partly a question of the Scottish horns being too sharply defined at the start) and the chase is even more exciting. With fine consideration for a child-listener, the line ''with one gulp swallowed her'', keeps a touch of avuncular kindness behind the horror, most delicately done.
Madame Prokofiev—with her tangy mixture of accent, best-described as Franco-Russian—has many memorable lines too. She is particularly fine, snarling the word ''wolf'' for the first time, and like Previn she conveys no self-consciousness, addressing a child-listener straight, with no adult patronising at all. Though interpretatively the two versions are so radically different, choice might be left to preference of coupling. Jarvi's reading of a compilation of eight movements from the two Cinderella Suites (''Introduction''; ''Quarrel''; ''Pavane''; ''Cinderella and the Prince''; ''Three Oranges''; ''Southern Countries''; ''Orientalia and Amoroso'') is even more warmly persuasive than Peter and the Wolf, bringing out the sensuousness of much of this music. As in earlier records in the SNO/Jarvi Prokofiev series, the playing is rich and brilliant.
As on his earlier EMI version of Peter and the Wolf with Mia Farrow as narrator (ASD2935, 12/73—nla), Previn has the Britten
The Telarc recording for Previn and the Chandos for Jarvi are both very vivid indeed, both with rich, full instrumental sound set firmly within helpfully reverberant acoustics, only occasionally less than ideally clear. Unlike many other versions, both of these have the narrations well-balanced against the orchestra, not distracting you with a different studio acoustic. The Telarc CD has only four tracks, which will make it easy for a child to operate, but indexing is generous with 19 points marked for