Classical Music and Stories. Five CDs with music; stories by Ann Rachlin. Published by Fun with Musicpound;5.99 each. Age range: 5-11.
It's a fair bet that most seven-year-olds could recite chunks of the current top 10 but would have to be drugged before sitting through Rimsky-Korsakov's Sheherazade.
Ann Rachlin's approach is to make some of the classics more child-friendly by weaving a story in with the music: a kind of music appreciation by stealth. These five CDs are the first batch in a planned total of 20. Each one takes a famous piece (such as The Four Seasons, the Love for Three Oranges) and gives it an entirely new spin.
Appealing mostly to the six to 10 age group, the stories are intriguing and lively, working harmoniously with their accompanying classics. Rachlin is at her best with her character voices. One of the most successful is "A Spooky Halloween", which conjures up plenty of horrors with Mussorgsky's A Night on the Bare Mountain pounding away in the background. It has to be said, though, that on some of the other CD's Rachlin's voice, which has more than a touch of the Joyce Grenfells about it, can get on your nerves.
Mandy and the Magic Butterfly offers a number of different composers and styles, worked around a common story. Mandy's search for the magic butterfly, to cure her mother's headaches, is assisted by a bee (Rimsky-Korsakov's, of course). We flit from The Flight of the Bumble Bee to "Give a little Whistle" from Disney's Pinocchio and then on to Beethoven's Piano Sonata in C minor as if it were the most natural transition in the world. Strangely enough, it works.
With all these CDs, their success is going to depend to a large extent on the background environment. A wet playtime or long car journey is ideal. Given the right conditions they should help engender an interest and love of classical music.
Jane Markwell For orders, free phone: 0800 731 7896