Leonard Bernstein

Paul Dukas: The Sorcerer's Apprentice

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This CD, which is clearly intended for children, includes two versions of Dukas' The Sorcerer's Apprentice, one straight performance of the tone poem with the New York Philharmonic, led by Leonard Bernstein, and one version with a narrator reading the story, accompanied by an arrangement of the music for chamber ensemble. The narrated version features Marshall Izen reading an adaptation of a story by Barbara Hazen. The original release, recorded in 1969, was intended to be listened to while looking at a picture book. That's a problem, because the book isn't included with this reissue, but the narration is constantly interrupted by a spliced-in voice squawking, "Turn ze page!" in an annoying accent. Hazen's story is tarted up with silly details that are likely to sound dated and obscure to twenty first century children. The music is so fragmented to fit the narration that it has little coherence and ultimately sounds trivialized. The sound quality for this version is poor -- there's a constant low-level tape hum and frequent bleed-through. The orchestral version is preceded by a spoken introduction, à la Peter and the Wolf, in which Izen introduces the musical themes and characters and situations that they illustrate. The orchestral performance of the piece is colorful and animated, but with so many stellar recorded versions of The Sorcerer's Apprentice available, it's not special enough to justify purchasing this CD.

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