The only Classical music record in my collection, and I bet you can’t guess why. This completes my David Bowie collection, that doesn’t mean I have everything he ever did on vinyl, that’ll never happen as since his death whoever owns the rights to his music has been punting out any old shite they can find so long as they can put his name on it, it means that albums wise I have all the ones I want…for now.
This album features Bowie narrating Prokofiev’s “Peter & The Wolf”, a children’s story where characters are represented by different instruments of the orchestra, on one side and a recording of Benjamin Britten’s “Young Person's Guide To The Orchestra” on’ t’other. Both pieces were written as a way of introducing children to orchestral music and on here both are performed by the Philadelphia Orchestra (although the Britten piece was recorded 2 years prior), one of the USA’s “big five” orchestras don’t you know. My Dad had a recording featuring both which he used to play to us, I’m sure in a vain attempt to have me and my brother develop an appreciation of “proper music”, but I don’t recall who narrated that one.
Prokofiev wrote “Peter And The Wolf” in 1936 and there have been over 400 recordings of it including those narrated by Leonard Cohen, Sean Connery, Boris Karloff (!), Dame Edna Everage and one with Vivian Stanshall which includes appearances by Brian Eno and Chris Spedding (now there’s one I’d love to hear). For this recording RCA asked both Alec Guinness and Peter Ustinov to narrate but both declined so Bowie stepped up. He wanted to make it for his son Zowie/Duncan who was 7 at the time. The music was recorded in Philadelphia and Bowie added his narration in December 1977 at RCA Studio B in New York after completing promotional duties for “Heroes”.
It seems the orchestras conductor, Hungarian violinist Eugene Ormandy, was not entirely convinced about Bowie’s involvement. He had no idea who he was and when told he was a rock star was singularly unimpressed. He did however enjoy the finished performance. As did others as on release in 1978 it reached #136 on the Billboard chart and in 1979 was nominated for the Grammy for Best Children’s Recording (it lost out…to the soundtrack from The Muppets !)
Yes it’s one for the Bowie nerds but that describes me perfectly so yah-boo-sucks. Lastly, isn’t it a shame the Philadelphia Orchestra isn’t the string players who appeared on Philadelphia International Records, that woulda made this whole thing much more funky.
Peter And The Wolf - https://youtu.be/9vr4JRbz8Yg?si=9ej4BtnpFwn82o-N