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Posted at 4:51 a.m. EST Wednesday, January 26, 2000


DATE: Sunday, November 20, 1994

Beacon Journal music critic

As gift-giving season rolls around, it's a good time to check out a couple of new recordings aimed at children.

Melissa Joan Hart narrates a Nickelodeon release of Prokofiev's 1936 work Peter and the Wolf in a version that has definitely been updated for 1994. Hart, a k a Clarissa of Nickelodeon fame, delivers her narrative like a fun baby sitter who is young enough that she hasn't forgotten that kids hate being talked down to.

This disc is a good value because it includes two other popular works for children -- Saint-Saens' Carnival of the Animals and Britten's A Young People's Guide to the Orchestra -- along with the Prokofiev. `Carnival of the Animals is like the most wonderful visit to the greatest zoo ever,` says Hart, and with the first-class playing by the Boston Symphony Orchestra under music director Seiji Ozawa, she's right. Highly recommended.

If kids really do grow up faster these days, where does that leave Tubby the Tuba, a postwar composition that has long been a fixture of children's concerts?

The Manhattan Transfer, better known for the jazz-pop vocalizing that it'll do at Playhouse Square this week, narrates a collection of four of Tubby's adventures with the Naples (Fla.) Philharmonic and tubist Tommy Johnson on the Summit Records label.

Poor old Tubby seems to have a hard time finding himself, but he keeps trying, by joining a marching band, circus band, symphony orchestra and jazz band. The narrative is insipid, but no more so than the chatter on Barney.

This version is pleasant and professionally done, but it doesn't improve on the material, nor does it make use of the quartet's singing talents, only their speaking voices.

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