Composer Jon Deak operated a young composers' program during his long tenure as bassist with the New York Philharmonic, and this collection of what he calls "Symphonic Tales" is addressed, he says, to "you -- adult and child." They aren't explicitly music for children, although children will probably enjoy them. The symphonic tales are accompanied narratives, one about wolves (B.B. Wolf is Big Bad Wolf), one a Haitian folktale, one based on Hans Christian Andersen's The Snow Queen, and the last one based on the legend from Dutch colonial times of the trumpeter Anthony van Corlaer at New York's Spuyten Duyvil creek. Deak wrote or co-wrote the texts for all four. What makes the album consistently interesting for adult listeners is the variety of treatments Deak applies to this basic form. B.B. Wolf features both the voice and accompaniment of Deak himself, playing contrabass, and the narrative and the accompaniment function as parts of the same musical line. Bye-Bye! features a flute and a pianist, both of whom contribute to the narration. The Andersen and Spuyten Duyvil works are both orchestral, with conductor Marin Alsop serving as narrator (a challenging task, one would think); these put the orchestra more in the role of accompaniment and are generally a lot of fun. Deak remarks that "the American cartoon, the spoken word, and the sounds of nature" are all part of his idea of music. That sums up this lively enjoyable release, recorded in the mid-1990s at the Cabrillo Music Festival and soon after that in New York. The music's premiere appearance, 25 years after it was recorded, is most welcome.
AllMusic Review by James Manheim