Alan Rawsthorne's Practical Cats seems a little out of place with Peter and the Wolf and Britten's Young Person's Guide to the Orchestra, standards that are frequently paired on CD; it has little in common with them except for the fact that all the works are written for narrator and orchestra. The Prokofiev and Britten are targeted at children, even though they are both sophisticated enough to be fully appreciated by grown-ups. It's a little harder to ascertain the point and target audience of the Rawsthorne; its music is pleasant enough, and evocative of the moods set by the Eliot poems on which it's based, and while the poems are accessible and clever in a grown-up way, they aren't likely to be very engaging for children. The performance features the Philharmonia Orchestra conducted by the composer, with British actor Robert Donat offering a witty reading of the poetry.
Raymond Leppard conducts the New Philharmonia Orchestra in the Prokofiev and Britten in sober-sided readings that miss the fun in either work; Peter and the Wolf sounds downright lethargic, and the orchestra only really takes off in the fugue at the end of the Britten. Richard Baker provides a very serious narration. The sound of the 1954 recording of the Rawsthorne is passable, and the balance in the 1971 recordings of the other works favors the voice, amplifying the didactic quality of the performances.