Review: Full house for Prokoviev children’s favourite

“Peter and the Wolf”

Concert No 24, Canberra International Music Festival

Canberra Girls Grammar School, May 18

Reviewed by Ian McLean

ONE could have heard a pin drop as a capacity audience of young and old audibly gasped when three french horns heralded the arrival of a wolf.  

Paul Goodchild

Paul Goodchild, detail of photo by Peter Hislop

This silence followed earlier squeals of delight as the flute, clarinet, oboe, bassoon and strings musically portrayed the characters from “Peter and the Wolf,” the story written in 1936 for a children’s theatre in Moscow by famed Russian composer Serge Prokofiev.

Listening and watching this tale, based on memories from Prokofiev’s childhood, aimed at introducing the young (and not so young!) to the instruments of the orchestra, proved to be a delightful way to spend an hour of the final morning of the Canberra International Music Festival.

With some of Australia’s finest orchestral performers on stage (including Vernon Hill – flute, Eve Newsome – oboe and Paul Goodchild – trumpet) this was top shelf entertainment.   The impressive soloists were joined by the strings of the Uppsala Chamber Soloists from Sweden and the ANAM String Quartet.

Then there was the icing on top – superb narration from one of Canberra’s leading actors, Duncan Driver.   He used his deeply rich and sonorous voice to clearly detail the story but added further by utilizing his acting prowess to produce a totally animated and convincing portrayal of each character.   Seeing so many young children mesmerised for the duration of the performance indicates how successful this musical story telling was.

Prior to Peter and Mr Wolf. it was a delight for me to experience a first ever hearing of the “Curly Pyjama Letters” by Calvin Bowman (who was present in the audience – a nice touch).   These little stories, again convincingly narrated by Duncan, were written by Michael Leuning and tell tales of the lone voyager Vasco Pyjama and his correspondence with friend and mentor Mr Curly of Curly Flats.   The musical accompaniment was performed delicately, sympathetically and lovingly by the most accomplished young musicians of the ANAM String Quartet.

The large crowd exceeded Festival expectations but the most enjoyable performance certainly deserved that ‘full house’.

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