First published in the Guardian on 12 October, 2017
Prokofiev: Peter and the Wolf
Peter and the Wolf is a gift for storytellers. It’s the ultimate in musical characterisation — slinky clarinet cat, ditzy flute bird, wholesome string-section Peter, all told in Prokofiev’s most taught and tuneful writing. There is no shortage of loveable recordings; I can’t imagine this new version from Vasily Petrenko and the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic making much of a dent. It sounds classy, cool, a bit sedate. There’s plenty to admire in the gleaming textures, the skilful pacing, but this piece deserves outright exuberance. The narrator is Andrew Armstrong — voice of Danger Mouse, glossy and unmemorable next to historic renditions from Alec Guinness, Richard Baker, Dame Edna Everage, Sting, Lenny Henry… the list goes on. Also on the disc is Saint Saens’s Carnival of the Animals (complete with doggerel verse by Ogden Nash that overstates what the music more magically conveys) and Alan Rawsthorne’s prosaic setting of T.S Elliot’s Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats. The playing is excellent.