Animals in Music (TrackList follows) – Various orchestras/conductors – Naxos (2 CDs) 8.578281-82, 2:37:11 [4/29/14] ****:

Imitating the sounds of animals has provided material for composers for centuries. Each composer has a different approach to the production of a facsimile of the sounds of different animals, and each seems to have their favorite animals (altho Saint-Saens covers a bunch of them in his work – which concludes the second disc). The whole thing started late in the 14th century, and as time went on, composers brought unusual colors and sometimes startling imitations of the sounds of animals into their music.

Vivaldi brought cuckoos, nightingales and finches into his works, but to my ears the master at the songs of birds is Messiaen, and evidently whoever put this Naxos program together feels the same, because there are two different sets of Messiaen bird call selections. Other bird sounds are heard in Delius’ lovely On Hearing the First Cuckoo in Spring, Prokofiev’s bird in Peter and the Wolf, Grieg’s Little Bird, Handel’s The Cuckoo and the Nightingale, Mussorgsky’s short Ballet of the Chickens in their Shells, Vaughan Williams’ The Lark Ascending, Mozart’s A Musical Joke – in which he put bird-like chirps in the Presto movement (honoring his pet starling), and Sibelius’ The Swan of Tuonela. Beethoven represents three different birds in the “Scene by the Brook” movement from his Pastoral Symphony. Cats get about a minute of music, in Martinu’s Procession of the Cats, for piano

About half of the 45 tracks are piano solos, with the rest being chamber works or for full symphony orchestra. Sonics are well matched and each CD is well-packed lengthwise. Altogether a wonderful programming idea that makes for pleasing listening.


Disc 1 =

Vaughan Williams, Ralph 1. The Wasps, Aristophanic Suite: I. Overture 00:09:28

Handel, George Friderik 2. Organ Concerto No. 13 in F Major, HWV 295, “The Cuckoo and The Nightingale”: II. Allegro 00:03:16

Grieg, Edvard 3. Lyric Pieces, Book 3, Op. 43: No. 4. Little bird 00:01:45

Mussorgsky, Modest Petrovich
Breiner, Peter, arranger(s)
4. Pictures at an Exhibition: V. Ballet of the Chickens in their Shells (arr. P. Breiner for orchestra) 00:01:18

Martinu, Bohuslav 5. Pruvod kocek v noci slunovratu (Procession of the Cats on Solstice Night), H. 122 00:01:07

Vivaldi, Antonio 6. The 4 Seasons: Violin Concerto in E Major, Op. 8, No. 1, RV 269, “La primavera” (Spring): II. Largo e pianissimo sempre 00:02:36

Grieg, Edvard  25 Norwegian Folk Songs and Dances, Op. 17 (excerpts) 7.
No. 8. Grisen (The Pig) 00:00:37
No. 12. Solfager og ormekongen (Solfager and the Snake King) 00:01:46
9. No. 17. Kleggen og Fluga (The Horsefly and the Fly) 00:01:06
10. No. 22. Kulok (Cow Call) 00:01:07
11. No. 25. Rabnabryllup (The Raven’s Wedding) 00:01:28

Saeverud, Harald 12. Haren og reven (The Hare and the Fox) 00:01:22

Delius, Frederick 13. 2 Pieces for Small Orchestra: No. 1. On Hearing the First Cuckoo in Spring 00:06:19

Milhaud, Darius 14. Le Boeuf sur le toit, Op. 58 00:15:14

Schubert, Franz 15. Piano Quintet In A Major, Op. 114, D. 667, “Die Forelle” (The Trout): IV. Thema with Variations: Andantino 00:07:14

Prokofiev, Sergey Peter and the Wolf, Op. 67 (excerpts) 16. The Bird 00:01:13

17. The Duck 00:01:54
18. The Wolf swallows the Duck 00:00:40

Messiaen, Olivier

Catalogue d’oiseaux (Catalogue of Birds) (excerpts)
19. 1er Livre: II. Le Loriot (Golden Oriole) 00:09:08
20. 3e Livre: V. La Chouette Hulotte (Tawny Owl) 00:07:35

Rimsky-Korsakov, Nikolay Andreyevicz 21. Tale of Tsar Saltan, Op. 57: Flight of the Bumblebee 00:01:35

Disc 2 =

Beethoven, Ludwig van 1. Symphony No. 6 in F Major, Op. 68, “Pastoral”: II. Scene by the brook: Andante molto mosso 00:12:55

Messiaen, Olivier  Petites esquisses d’oiseaux (Little Sketches of Birds) (excerpts) 2. I. Le rouge – gorge (Robin) 00:02:25
3. II. Le merle – noir (Blackbird) 00:02:18

Vaughan Williams, Ralph 4. The Lark Ascending 00:15:03

Brusa, Elisabetta 5. Favol – No. 3. The Ant and the Grasshopper 00:02:13

Grieg, Edvard 6.  Lyric Pieces, Book 3, Op. 43: No. 1. Butterfly 00:01:41

Mozart, Wolfgang Amadeus 7. Divertimento in F Major, K. 522, “Ein musikalischer Spass” (A Musical Joke): IV. Presto 00:05:05

Poulenc, Francis 8.  L’histoire de Babar, le petit elephant (The Story of Babar, the Little Elephant), FP 129 (excerpt) 00:01:16

Sibelius, Jean 9. Lemminkainen Suite, Op. 22: II. The Swan of Tuonela 00:08:55

Vivaldi, Antonio 10. Flute Concerto in D Major, Op. 10, No. 3, RV 428, “Il cardellino”: I. Allegro 00:03:46

Saint-Saens, Camille Carnival of the Animals 11.
I. Introduction and Royal March of the Lion 00:02:24
12. II. Hens and Cockerels 00:00:59
13. IV. Presto 00:05:05
14. IV. Tortoises 00:02:14
15. V.  The Elephant 00:01:33
16. VI. Kangaroos 00:00:57
17.VII. Aquarium 00:02:33
18. VIII. People with Long Ears 00:00:51
19. IX. The Cuckoo in the Depths of the Woods 00:01:50
20. X. Aviary 00:01:16
21. XI. Pianists 00:01:52
22. XII. Fossils 00:01:18
23. XIII. The Swan 00:03:07
24. XIV. Finale 00:02:10

—John Sunier