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McNeff: Four Tales from Beatrix Potter™
01 Nov 2005
Originally recorded in 2005
BBC Concert Orchestra
Whitfield Street Studios, London
Hippodrome, Golders Green, London
Studio 1, BBC Maida Vale, London
Total Time - 75:18
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Four Tales from Beatrix Potter™
Adapted by Adrian Mitchell
Orchestral Suites by
The Tale of Jemima Puddle-Duck†
'Once upon a time. . .'
'Yes, I'll start with a duck story.'
'Mrs Rebeccah Puddle-Duck hurried up.'
''But I'm not used to flying.''
'Jemima landed clumsily. . .'
'Jemima Puddle-Duck came every afternoon. . .'
''Before you begin sitting on your eggs. . .''
''Come into the house. . .''
Pit pat paddle pat!
The Tale of Peter Rabbit†
Once upon a time
'Flopsy, Mopsy and Cotton-tail. . .'
Let us have a lettuce
I loves all the animals
'Mr McGregor jumped up. . .'
'Peter gave himself up for lost. . .'
'Presently he came to a pond. . .'
'''Listen'', said Peter. . .'
The green little berries
The Tale of Squirrel Nutkin‡
'My story is about squirrels.'
'The squirrels all lived in a wood. . .'
'It was autumn. . .'*
'They also took with them. . .'
'The squirrels filled their little sacks. . .'
'But Nutkin, who had no respect. . .'
'On the third day. . .'
''Oh, I've brought a present!. . .''
'On the fourth day. . .'
'''I take no interest in riddles''. . .'
'On the sixth day. . .'
'But Nutkin was in his waistcoat pocket!'
I'm a red squirrel
The Tale of Samuel Whiskers‡
Overture - '
'Once upon a time. . .'
'Mrs Tabitha went up and down. . .'
We won't let you catch us Mama!
'Just at that moment. . .'
'The two cats ran to look at the dough pan.'
'Tom kitten did not want. . .'
'Tom squeezed and squeezed. . .'
'Anna Maria rushed upon Tom Kitten. . .'
Roly-poly pudding I sing
''Samuel! What's that?''
'The dumpling had to be peeled off. . .'
This is the premiere recording of Stephen McNeff’s vivid scores, which charmingly convey all the magic of Beatrix Potter’s famous tales. These four tales were adapted for stage by Adrian Mitchell, one of Britain’s favourite poets and dramatists. In the role of Beatrix Potter, the Oscar-nominated actress Imelda Staunton employs all her skills as a stage performer while drawing on her experience of musical theatre to narrate, sing and personify a diverse cast.
The songs, settings and incidental music on this CD are a remarkable tribute to one of the world’s most popular children’s storytellers, Beatrix Potter.
This is a premiere recording which follows a successful broadcast on BBC Radio 4.
McNeff’s lush orchestration is given full rein by the BBC Concert Orchestra conducted by Clark Rundell.
Imelda Staunton and the BBC Concert Orchestra will be performing one of the tales at the Royal Festival Hall on the 12 December.
The songs, settings and incidental music on this CD are a remarkable tribute to one of the world’s most popular children’s storytellers, Beatrix Potter (1866–1943). Her tales of Peter Rabbit, Jemima Puddle-duck, Squirrel Nutkin, and Samuel Whiskers were recently adapted for the stage by Adrian Mitchell, one of Britain’s favourite poets and dramatists, as a commission for the Unicorn Theatre for Children. Mitchell shaped twelve of Potter’s familiar stories into three separate productions with a narrator playing the part of Beatrix. In this recording the role is taken by Imelda Staunton who personifies a diverse cast in narration and song. At the heart of these exuberant shows was the music of Stephen McNeff. Describing the inner life of Potter’s creations, the music also captured the particularity of the landscapes that haunted Potter’s imagination. While only seven musicians performed during the stage shows, McNeff’s lush orchestration for the BBC Concert Orchestra reveals all the latent colours, shades and tonal moods of his original score. The essence of the stage production was its faithfulness to the artistic spirit of Beatrix Potter. Her apparently simple tales are rich in curiosity and the elusive search for happiness and identity. McNeff’s music contains the complexity and nuances of Potter’s world. It also catches the fun, spontaneity and silliness of her characters with their recognisable foibles. Able to tell a child a story that had the merits of accuracy (from a painstaking study of botany and biology) and truth (as an observant student of animal and human behaviour), Potter wrote from a perspective laced with ambiguity and paradox. Her voice carried that special English tone in which understatement is married to precision. McNeff’s score for Beatrix Potter’s tales never veers into sentimentality but both satisfies and surprises us by remaining true to the spirit of the original tales.
Stephen McNeff provided thoroughly approachable incidental music and simple songs, evoking the countryside atmosphere and characterising the various animals with catchy themes – most particularly that for Jemima Puddle-Duck. For this recording McNeff has expanded his original setting for seven musicians into a lush orchestral tapestry, supporting Imelda Staunton’s narration in which she manages to depict the different animals with a varied ranges of voices that becomes a tour de force in the closing Tale of Samuel Whiskers. Her wholly friendly presentation should readily appeal to its intended audience.
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