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Harry Downey
MusicWeb International, July 2000

What a good idea for a CD. Take two classic, timeless stories that everyone knows which already have music that fits the story lines, add a narrator to tell the tales, and there you are. This Naxos disc is clearly targeted at children.

The Prokofiev Cinderella, begun in 1940 and finished in '44, followed his splendid Romeo and Juliet score and there are some obvious similarities. Written for the Kirov as a full-length Ballet, Prokoviev later wrote three orchestral Suites from the material - reworked and changed for their new symphonic format. In the form used on this disc the material is drawn from all three Suites.

Naturally Prokofiev's own Peter and the Wolf is recalled. In Peter, though, the narration is written into the score - here the Cinderella reading is an add-on. Inevitably and quite properly the story-telling begins with "Once upon a time" and then links and concludes the eight orchestral movements. For Tchaikovsky's Sleeping Beauty, the material is the six-movement Suite from the full ballet and again the Narrator starts the story and continues it between movements. Brian Cant characterised a number of the parts and was convincing as he did. The script did not "write-down" to a likely child listener, but wouldbe easily understood by one throughout.

I doubt a serious critique of the orchestral playing and its nuances is called for here - it isn't that sort of disc. Enough to say that the playing is perfectly satisfactory from the two orchestras sharing the playing and a good clear recording helps.

Geoffrey Norris
The Daily Telegraph (Australia), December 1999

"Brian Cant was the voice of the BBC's Playaway, and a star of the corporation's Christmas pantomime, so he has sound credentials to narrate such a seasonal favourite as Cinderella. He has a nice, light and understated touch in his story-telling, with a bit of the Edith Evans for the Fairy Godmother and a touching wonderment to match Prokofiev's scintillating score.

The musical performance relishes Prokofiev's melodic allure, rhythmic spirit and dramatic clarity, and revels in his crystalline instrumentation. In the suite from Tchaikovsky's Sleeping Beauty there is emotional grit and lustre to the playing of the Slovak orchestra, with Cant interpolating take in tones eager with anticipation. This bargain disc is perfect for children of all ages."

Ian Lace
MusicWeb International, December 1999

If you are worrying about what to get for that young niece or nephew this Christmas, then this CD might just be the thing. It will certainly provide an ideal introduction to the world of classical music. Brian Cant is, of course, well-known for his many television appearances as an actor, and in many children's programmes; but he is probably best remembered for his narration of those favourite TV series for the very young: Camberwick Green and Trumpton. As such, he makes an ideal, unselfconscious story-teller of Cinderella and Sleeping Beauty.

Prokofiev (1891-1953) was of course one of the greatest twentieth century composers working in most genres but in the world of film music he is remembered best for his music for Alexander Nevsky and Ivan the Terrible. He also contributed significant music for the theatre and ballet. His best-known ballet music, for Romeo and Juliet, has tended to overshadow his other achievements in this context. He commenced work on Cinderella in 1940 in response to a commission from the Kirov Ballet but the German invasion diverted his attention and so Cinderella was not completed until 1944. Soon after its première, Prokofiev arranged three suites from the ballet. The suite on this recording draws its material from all three suites.

Theodore Kuchar draws playing of great enchantment and humour from the Ukraine players. In the 'Dance of the Shawl' (by the ugly sisters) Prokofiev, in some of his most sardonic music, pours rough scorn upon them. 'Fairy Godmother' (preparing Cinderella for the Ball) is a very atmospheric movement for the magic of the creation of the coach and horses, the gown and the slippers. The scintillating 'Cinderella's Waltz' (at the Ball), on the other hand, is one of Prokofiev's most beautifully romantic creations. Tchaikovsky's Sleeping Beauty music is too well known for the necessity of any comment from me and so I will just comment that Cant adds his magical touch to a good performance by Mogrelia's players.

A ticket to enter a world of enchantment for the young music lover.

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