It's a bit hard to tell from the packaging or even the booklet what you're getting here. Despite the Orchestre de Picardie billed on the cover, the version of Poulenc's music for the much-loved children's story of Babar the elephant is not the Jean Françaix orchestration from the 1960s (although certain features of it are retained, such as the little musical commentary when Babar discovers the elevator) or the original music for piano, but an arrangement for solo winds and strings, with percussion, by David Walter. The other piece on the program, Claude Bolling's Le vent tourbillon (The Whirlwind), is for a similar chamber ensemble, minus the strings and plus piano. The Bolling work is a sort of Young Person's Guide to the Orchestra focusing on the wind instruments, with songs and spoken poetry accompanied by the instruments; in the poems the instruments illustrate the spoken words. The Poulenc is available in several versions but works well in these chamber dimensions, and it's ideal for French language classes and the like. Unlike in the Bolling, Poulenc's music does not accompany the text but is added in episodes where the narrative comes to a temporary stopping place. It's charming for children or adults; as annotator Bernard Boland points out, the music has something of the quality of a silent film score. The booklet notes are in English and French, but no printed texts are given in either language. The Babar story is pretty easy to follow even for English speakers with minimal French.
Share this page
AllMusic Review by James Manheim
|L'histoire de Babar le petit éléphant|
|Le vent tourbillon (A story for musical instruments, narrator and singer)|