View RSS Feed

Pierre's Tuesday Blog

Child's Play

Rate this Entry

Christmas time is upon us and I thought I would use this visit in the Podcast Vault to not only get us in the spirit of the Season, but also to propose some music that is appropriate for young (and young at heart) music lovers.

There are three main ideas that intermingle in this montage: children, children’s tales and (of course) toys. Let’s discuss these themes and my selections in no particular order.

Bizet's Jeux d'enfants, like Schumann's Kinderszenen and Debussy's Children's Corner, is more about children than for children to play. It's a suite of a dozen miniatures, each a minute or two long, evoking the simple games and interests of very young children. Later, Bizet arranged five of those movements for orchestra, producing a light, bright narrative of children's games.

In the repertoire of musical tales for narrator and musical ensemble, we usually hear the Carnival of the Animals, or Peter and the Wolf, and even sometimes the Young Person’s Guide to the Orchestra. Francis Poulenc’s setting of the original Brunhoff Story of Babar is (I am sad to say) less played. When my Son was 3 or 4 years old, I did take him to a local concert where Peter and the Wolf and Babar were both performed, and Babar (because less played) sounded fresher to me… The montage selection is narrated by Meryl Streep, who does a great job.

Rather than programming the aforementioned Children’s Corner, I chose to look at a different piece by Debussy: his Boite a joujoux (literally, the toy box). This was originally conceived as a ballet, but it works quite well in the unique storytelling style of soprano and artist Natalie Dessay, in a production that was created a few years back at the Opera Comique in Paris. I scoured YouTuibe in search of an English equivalent, and found this one, for narrator and piano.

The version included in the montage differs a lot from the above take – as it is set in Toyland (rather than in a toy store) and tells of a love triangle between Chou-Chou the doll, a toy soldier (Number 7) and Polichinelle (Pulchinella in the Italian tradition, Punch in the English tradition). Chou-chou loves the soldier, but loves Polichinelle “like a brother”, which infuriates the puppet and he literally streals Chou-Chou’s heart to make sure she feels no love, and will thus marry him without reluctance. Of course, Number 7 finds Chou-Chou’s heart, and the couple marry and live happily ever after.

Leopold Mozart’s Toy Symphony and the March of the Toys complete the montage.

A nice way to begin the Holidays!

ITYWLTMT Podcast Montage # 85 – Child's Play
(Originally issued on Friday, December 21, 2012)

Francis POULENC (1899-1963)
The Story of Babar, the Little Elephant FP 129
Meryl Streep, English Narration
New Zealand Symphony Orchestra
JoAnn Falletta, conducting

Georges BIZET (1838-1875)
Petite Suite, orchestration of Jeux d'enfants, op. 22, nos. 6, 3, 2, 11, and 12
Orchestre Symphonique de Montréal
Charles Dutoit, conducting

Victor HERBERT (1859-1924)
"March of the Toys" from Babes in Toyland (1903)
Philadelphia Orchestra
Eugene Ormandy, conducting

Claude DEBUSSY (1862 –1918)
La boîte à joujoux (The Toy Box), L. 128
[orchestration completed by André Caplet, 1919)
Natalie Dessay, French Narration
Ensemble Agora

Leopold MOZART (1719-1787)
Cassation in G major for toys, 2 oboes, 2 horns, strings and continuo (ca. 1759)
Orchestre Symphonique de RTL (Luxembourg)
Leopold Hager, conducting

December 5th 2014, "I Think You Will Love This Music Too" will feature a new podcast "Magyar rapszódiák, Part One" at its Pod-O-Matic Channel . Read more on our blogs in English and in French.

Updated Dec-02-2014 at 11:16 by itywltmt

Classical Music , Recorded Music