Songs for Children: Mussorgsky, Prokofiev, Stravinsky, Dessau, and Röntgen is a series of songs about and for children by five 20th century composers, all of them performed by a Netherlands opera soprano, Thea Van Der Putten, and Utrecht Conservatory conductor and professor, Henk Ekkel. Nothing here is interesting in and of itself. These songs were all written with the expressed idea that they weren't for adults. Still, in these dry, academic readings, it's difficult to imagine how children of any era could have been compelled into listening to the material found here. The only things of note are how these composers wrote for children: Stravinsky, with a complete, anarchic atonality that may or may not have been embraced by youngsters under the age of ten (by today's standards that would be a flat, pronounced "no"); or Dessau, who, with his shifting musicological meters, aims to keep children focused by using an MTV-like methodology: constantly keep 'em guessing. Mussorgsky is off the map with his nursery rhymes, composed in the same manner as the arias in Boris Goudenov and Prokofiev; sad, deeply melancholic animal songs ring more true than the sound of an old man trying to regain the pageantry of his youth. But no matter what the material; these emotionally arrested, cold readings leave the listener wondering why there is no imagination in a program of children's songs. Why isn't there one hint of irony, wonder, or innocence in anything Thea Van Der Putten and Henk Ekkel put across in performing these selections? Simple: they treat the music as European art songs, and, as such, they have no referents for themselves and come off as flat and dead as a tree looks in winter. This is an embarrassment to the fine Bvhaast catalog.
AllMusic Review by Thom Jurek