My parents introduced their children to classical music from an early age. All of us had our favorite pieces. In my pre-teen years, mine was unquestionably Camille Saint-Saëns‘ whimsical work “The Carnival of the Animals“, composed in 1886. It comprised 14 short movements, each describing in musical terms a particular animal. The music may have been whimsically inspired, but it’s actually very well written, and has stood the test of time. It remains immensely popular worldwide.
In 1949 the American poet and satirist Ogden Nash wrote a series of tongue-in-cheek amusing poems for each movement, which were used on a new recording of the work conducted by Andre Kostelanetz. British dramatist, author, composer and entertainer Noël Coward recited the verses on the recording, which became instantly popular. My parents bought it, and introduced me to the work by playing it so often that the LP record wore out and they had to buy another.
You can imagine my delight when, more than half a century after I first heard it, I found a copy of that very recording on YouTube. Hearing the American comic verse of Ogden Nash performed with the stiff-upper-lip English accent of Noël Coward is giggle-worthy in itself.
Here, for your enjoyment, is that first-ever recording of “The Carnival of the Animals” with Coward’s rendition of Nash’s verse. Enjoy!
Oh, the childhood memories that brings back . . .