John Morris Russell / Cincinnati Pops Orchestra

Carnival of the Animals

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This CD of animal-themed light music from the Cincinnati Pops Orchestra is full of surprises, and John Morris Russell's program presents some familiar music in new arrangements, along with several character pieces that aren't heard every day. Perhaps the most controversial offering is Russell's re-orchestration of Camille Saint-Saëns' Carnival of the Animals, in which the pianists -- and the piece called Pianists -- are eliminated, as is the movement Tortoises; parts are reassigned to different instruments; and recorded animal sounds are placed before each of the sections, Hens and Roosters, Elephants, Donkeys, Aviary, and the Grand Finale, as well as elsewhere in the program. This might be effective or amusing in concert, but on CD the canned animal sounds seem like an obvious gimmick that adds little for what was lost. The album is more successful for the remainder, because the short pieces are engaging and fun, and such crowd-pleasers as Percy Grainger's Shepherd's Hey!, Leonard Bernstein's Turkey Trot, Johann Strauss' Nightingale Polka, and Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov's Flight of the Bumblebee are great fun. Somewhat less known but equally entertaining are Anatole Liadov's The Mosquito, Ottorino Respighi's The Cuckoo, and Edward Elgar's The Wild Bears, which take the program off the well-worn path. Taken together, these pieces will appeal to parents and children, and whatever one feels about the arrangement of Carnival of the Animals, this is largely a successful album.

Track Listing

Sample Title/Composer Performer Time
Carnival of the Animals
1 0:20
2 1:59
3 0:20
4 0:48
5 0:59
6 0:05
7 1:34
8 2:18
9 0:09
10 0:42
11 0:21
12 1:16
13 1:18
14 2:55
15 0:08
16 2:06
17 0:15
18 2:18
Divertimento, for orchestra
19 1:50
20 7:05
21 0:19
22 3:07
Eight Russian Folk Songs
23 1:07
Pictures at an Exhibition
24 1:14
25 0:11
The Birds
26 4:36
27 1:27
28 0:08
The Wand of Youth, Suite No. 2
29 2:19
Shall We Dance?
30 2:49
The Red Pony
31 3:12
blue highlight denotes track pick