My father was not a fan of television, so as a child I spent a good deal of time in front of a record player listening to my mother’s classical and folk music. There are photographs of me as a 4 year old sitting in my rocking chair, holding my beloved stuffed dog listening intently to the music on the record player. The album covers were sometimes just as interesting to me, if not more so, than the music. In some ways the experience was just like television.
The three recordings from my earliest recollection are wildly disparate, but they each made an impression on me in their own way. I’ll bet many of us got our classical music start with Prokofiev’s “Peter and The Wolf.” Though the trapping and capture of the wolf worried me, I loved the story and the characters represented by musical instruments. The first version I heard and my favorite is with Eugene Ormandy conducting the Philadelphia Orchestra with Cyril Ritchard narrating. Ritchard’s may not be the most famous narration, but his rendition of the grandfather reminded me of my own, and that was and is good enough for me.
Carl Orff’s “Carmina Burana” is not the most appropriate piece for a child, but I was delightedly wide eyed about it, especially the album cover of the recording. My mother never went into detail about what was going on in the work; she would answer my questions as subtly as she could. She said it was about a bunch of Goliard Poets who sang, danced and liked spring a lot. The LP cover looked awfully grotesque, and I knew there must be something deliciously sinister about the goings-on in the music.
If “Carmina Burana” seems like a strange introduction of a child to classical music, then Mahler’s Symphony No. 2 “The Resurrection” is off the charts. The music itself washed over me in a Niagara Falls kind of way. Overwhelming! More than anything, I enjoyed hearing my mother sing along and gesture to Mahler’s music. I also liked the cover of Mary who seemed like a nice, approachable person; a good mother.
Carmina Burana, Eugene Ormandy, Mahler, Niagara Falls