LABELS: Koch International
WORKS: L’histoire de Babar; Ma mère l’oye Suite
PERFORMER: Meryl Streep (narrator), Mona & Renee Golabek (piano) New Zealand SO/JoAnn Falletta
CATALOGUE NO: 3-7368-2
The choice is between storytelling and chamber music. Meryl Streep will hold anybody spellbound who isn’t allergic to a lightly American voice. The tone is friendly and direct, and she has the natural actor’s command of imperceptibly increasing pace from a laid-back start, responding to the vivacity of the music.
Succinct, enchanting versions of fairy-tales introduce the keyboard Mother Goose, which is played plainly and simply. The orchestral performances are strong, sensitive and well balanced within a bottom-heavy acoustic. But you won’t buy this for the orchestra alone and it would have been lovely to have more stories.
Not so for the Fibonacci Sequence, where the tale is told with arch condescension. The distinction here is David Matthews’s arrangement of Babar, with harp part added for the recording; it invokes the joys of chamber playing and makes a welcome addition to the Poulenc ensemble repertoire. These fine players add a sample of Poulenc’s wide-ranging chamber music proper, the pick being the Horn Elegy. Other pieces suffer from the group’s apparent belief that understatement is a key Poulenc quality. What about emotion and fun? Robert Maycock