With the beautiful music of Rimsky-Korsakov’s Sheherazade in the background, a wacky Grandma Dingley begins to tell the tale with the help of Brian Blessed, Rory Bremner and a huge contribution from Jess Murphy who excels as the lovely heroine of the tale. Although parts of the story might well confuse younger children, the story is very well paced and lets the audience understand the ebb and flow of the music while giving them no time whatsoever to be bored.
We trialled the CD on the youngest reviewers we’ve yet used - four year old twin boys. They were patently too young to listen all the way through but found Rory Bremner as the narrator funny and loved the pirates too. Our reviewers’ Mum thought the way the voices occasionally sang the orchestral tunes was hilarious.
The set on offer is two CDs, the first with the story overlaid and the second, purely the orchestral music without voices or commentary. This isn’t obvious from the packaging as the two CDs look identical when you open the set. It would also be useful to offer ways that teachers or parents could work with the CDs - listening to a snippet at a time and asking questions about it or trying to identify the sound of the sea in the music and to hear the various themes. Our young reviewers were asked and did succeed in picking out the princess’s tune when they heard it on the second CD so this proved a successful trial of teaching the music to very young children.
For me there was a sense of relief in listening to the second disc, with a beautifully performed, well recorded Sheherazade, because the story does become frantic in parts but I recognise that helps its appeal for a young audience and leaves a strong imprint of the story after the 45 minute tale has ended.Alison Karlin 24th April 2011