Monday, June 1, 2015

June 2015 - Featured Playlist: Off to Neverland

Think back to when you were a kid. Magic was possible, the world was a beautiful discovery, and you could be a superhero or a superspy or a super cute puppy…something super, anyway. That sense of wide-eyed wonder was natural, and accepted—and then “life” happened, and it conspired to smother it all.

Of course that doesn’t mean we have to give in to that suffocation that some people call adulthood. In the midst of studying and working, paying tuition or paying rent, we can still escape to that mysterious, miraculous imagination we were born with, where we learn anew that anything is possible. Let this music be your soundtrack as you whisk Off to Neverland.

To hear the playlist, access NML as usual, go to the Playlists section, and select the Playlist of the Month folder under the Naxos Music Library Playlists tab. If you are on your institution's premises, you may also be able to access it if you CLICK HERE.

1. Moose Charlap, Carolyn Leigh – Peter Pan: I Won’t Grow Up – J.M. Barrie’s beloved story about a mischievous little boy who can fly was adapted as a hugely successful Broadway musical in 1954. It is a delightful tale that reminds us that even though we all have to grow up, we can still retain a childlike love for life that keeps us young in spirit.

2. John Morris Russell – Carnival of the Animals (after Saint-Saëns): Grand Finale – Saint-Saëns never intended for Carnival of the Animals to be anything more than a fun parlor piece for two pianos and a handful of other instruments, but it has since become one of his most popular works. This version is an arrangement that takes advantage of the many colors of the full orchestra.

3. Dmitry Kabalevsky – The Comedians: II. Comedians’ Gallop – Kabalevsky is primarily known in the West for this selection, the "Comedians’ Gallop", but in Russia he is probably best-known for his vocal music. He was also a major contributor to music education, setting up pilot programs in more than two dozen Soviet schools and even for a time teaching a class of seven-year-olds.

4. Sergei Prokofiev – Peter and the Wolf: The Procession to the Zoo – Of course Prokofiev’s enduring Peter and the Wolf has to be included here, and we’ve got none other than David Bowie himself to narrate. Composed in only four days, the work’s 1936 debut was poorly attended and, in Prokofiev’s words, “failed to attract much attention”, but it would go on to become one of the most beloved works of all time.

5. Nikolay Rimsky-Korsakov – The Snow Maiden Suite: IV. Danse des bouffons – Rimsky-Korsakov’s opera about a snow maiden who acquires the capacity to love only to have its warmth destroy her is one of his best-known works, and his personal favorite. From it was derived an orchestral suite, which includes the colorful "Dance of the Clowns".

6. Paul Dukas – The Sorcerer’s Apprentice – It might not be fair to call Dukas a one-hit wonder, but there’s no getting around the fact that The Sorcerer’s Apprentice is far and away his most beloved work, due especially to its use in Disney’s Fantasia (1940). Already quite popular at the time, the piece became ingrained in the general consciousness thanks to Mickey Mouse’s big come-back portrayal of a hapless apprentice magician.
7. John Williams – Star Wars, Episode VI, “Return of the Jedi”: Parade of the Ewoks – John Williams may wear his influences on his sleeve, but he’s done it well, composing some of the most memorable film music of all time. His Star Wars score especially is truly iconic, and no matter how old we get, those famous melodies instantly transport us back to fond childhood memories.

8. Benjamin Britten – The Young Person’s Guide to the Orchestra: Fugue: Allegro molto – As the title states, this piece was composed to be a demonstration of the various instruments of the orchestra. Each instrument takes its turn with a variation of the theme, one borrowed from Purcell, and then they all come together for a fugue at the end.

9. Scott Joplin – The Entertainer – If you’ve ever spent much time at the piano, you’ve probably learned at least a portion of Joplin’s enduring rag The Entertainer. The recording included here was released in late 1970 and became Nonesuch Records’ first million-selling record. A couple years later The Entertainer was used in the hit film The Sting, completing its ascent into the popular consciousness.

10. Herbert Baumann – Alice In Wonderland: Final Dance – Herbert Baumann is primarily known as a prolific composer for theater and television, but in 1984 he completed music for a ballet based on Lewis Carroll’s timeless tale Alice In Wonderland. He followed this up a year later with the ballet Rumpelstiltskin, which went on to receive over 200 performances.

11. Harold Arlen – The Wizard of Oz: If I Only Had A Brain – One of the most beloved films of all time, The Wizard of Oz was not that big of a commercial success upon its initial release, drawing box office totals that only barely exceeded its budget. But it received several Oscar nominations, and subsequent re-releases were massively successful. “If I Only Had A Brain” was one of several songs on the soundtrack to achieve continual popularity.

12. Daly/Traditional – American Hoe Down Medley – “Chicken Reel” and “Turkey in the Straw” are two popular hoedown tunes that often serve as novelty songs for children. Many lyrics exist for these melodies, but while some are nonsense, others unfortunately reflect their popularity with blackface singers in bygone days. These two songs are performed in this medley (without lyrics) by the United States Air Force Strings.

13. Leopold Mozart – Cassation in G Major, “Toy Symphony”: I. Allegro – It is unknown with full certainty who the composer of the Toy Symphony is, but the piece is popularly attributed to Leopold Mozart. Composed for strings, woodwinds, and an assortment of toys, it is a piece often programmed for children, sometimes at Christmas.

14. Ellen Taaffe Zwilich – Peanuts Gallery: VI. Peppermint Patty and Marcie Lead the Parade – Charles Schulz was a fan of Zwilich, even incorporating her into a Peanuts strip. In it, Marcie notes at a concert that the next piece is by Ellen Zwilich, who “just happens to be a woman.” Peppermint Patty then climbs up on her chair and shouts out “Good going, Ellen!”

15. Elisabetta Brusa – Merlin – Contemporary Italian composer Elisabetta Brusa had always loved the stories about Merlin and King Arthur, and in 2004 she endeavored to compose a symphonic poem describing the beloved wizard. It’s a fantastic work all around, but it’s the ending that really wins the listener over, as it is a perfect musical depiction of Merlin disappearing into thin air.

16. Gioachino Rossini – La Cenerentola: Nacqui all’affanno e al pianto – Composed when he was 25, Rossini’s version of the Cinderella story was completed over a three-week period in the year following the great success of The Barber of Seville. Like its predecessor, it has remained a staple of the operatic repertoire and a showpiece for its soloists. This version is performed by Maria Callas.

17. Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart – Die Zauberflöte, Act I: Aria: Der Vogelfanger bin ich ja – Mozart mastered the art of composing for his performers, tailoring the arrangements and difficulty levels to the skills of the expected singers. For example, the character of Papageno was first performed by a less-skilled singer, so those melodies are often doubled in the orchestra to aid the singer in finding his pitch.

18. Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky – The Sleeping Beauty, Act. I: Waltz – The second of Tchaikovsky’s three great ballets, The Sleeping Beauty was a considerable success, receiving over 200 performances within 10 years of its completion. It was based on the Brothers Grimm’s version of the story, but it also incorporated other fairy tale characters, including Little Red Riding Hood, Cinderella, Puss in Boots, and Beauty and the Beast.

19. John Walter Bratton – The Teddy Bears’ Picnic - John Walter Bratton was a popular composer of the Tin Pan Alley around the turn of the twentieth century. A number of his songs were quite successful in his day, but today he is remembered primarily for “The Teddy Bears’ Picnic”, a melody that has appeared in everything from Looney Tunes cartoons to Pretty Little Liars to Peter Greenaway’s A Zed & Two Noughts.

20. Robert Schumann – Kinderszenen: No. 7 Traumerei – In 1838 Schumann composed thirty simple pieces for piano, then selected thirteen of them to make up his Kinderszenen. The pieces each are meant to depict an adult reminiscence of different aspects of childhood. “Traumerei (Dreaming)” is perhaps the best known of these pieces.

Each month, Naxos Music Library presents a themed playlist for our subscribers to enjoy. We know that a database of over 1.6 million tracks can be a bit daunting, so we'd like to highlight some of the amazing music that is available to you. Let it kickstart discovery!