Is there a finer, more entertaining vehicle for this most musically brilliant of families than French composer Camille Saint-Saëns’ convivial and virtuosic Carnival of the Animals? For this performance, the Kanneh-Mason ensemble consists of pianists Isata, Konya, and Jeneba; violinist Braimah; and cellist Sheku—all siblings—while top classical talent including clarinetist Mark Simpson and percussionist Adrian Spillett take on the remaining instruments. It’s all done with panache and considerable wit, but the music is just one part of this enchanting album. Rather than following in the footsteps of Ogden Nash, who, in 1949, wrote verses to accompany Saint-Saëns’ vignettes, author Michael Morpurgo provides his own set of ingenious texts. And they’re all charmingly delivered, whether read by Morpurgo himself or actor Olivia Colman. As if Saint-Saëns weren’t enough, Morpurgo’s environmental tale “Grandpa Christmas” is wrapped up in musical gems performed by even more members of this astonishing family, including Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov’s fiendish “Flight of the Bumble-Bee,” two of Béla Bartók’s spellbinding folk dances, and Eric Whitacre’s beautiful “The Seal Lullaby.” Bob Marley gets the final word, with a powerful performance of “Redemption Song” by the whole gang.
Carnival of the Animals
I. Preamble (Narration)
I. Introduction and Royal March of the Lion (Narration)
I. Introduction and Royal March of the Lion
II. Hens and Roosters (Narration)
II. Hens and Roosters
III. Wild Donkeys Swift Animals (or Make What You Like of That) (Narration)