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Prokofiev and Larry Bell "Peter and the Wolf" and "Hansel and Gretel"


I was five years old when my parents took me to hear Peter and the Wolf. Beforehand, a yet), large lady, played Grieg's Piano Concerto and her husband, who was much smaller than she, conducted the orchestra.

It is strange that we can remember things that happen very, carly in our lives. Why should I remember that large lady in a red velvet dress with her black shiny hair tied back in a bun and her diminutive husband waving a stick, sixty years later? Well, when we are very young, things we experience for the first time make little notches in our brain that stay there and when you are old like me you will be able to remember those moments. So, as you are going through your life, you could think, as each new experience comes your way" "I might remember that when I am old?". That would make you very attentive!

I remember the violins sounded so sweet and energetic like Peter himself and the flute chirped just like a bird. I can see the flute player in my mind's eye, her head tossing while she played. I remember being very scared of the wolf, but it was only when I grew up and became a musician that I realized that the reason the French horns sound so scary is because there is a cymbal in the background being hit in such a way that it makes a horrible, hissing sound. I also remember the timpani player hitting the drums so hard for the hunters' guns that I had to hold my hands over my ears. Mostly I remember being terribly excited and then I grew up and decided to become a conductor myself I wonder if that first experience was the thing that made me want to become a musician?

When I had a chance to make this recording of Peter and the Wolf, I thought it would be a really great idea to do it with my Youth Orchestra, because I think it is ton for you to know that the wonderful bassoon solo representing the grandfather is being played by a girl called Ingrid, who is around the same age as the girl who comes over to look after you when your parents go out- she's still in high school. In fact all the players are school children, so that makes them seem closer to you in age and they, might inspire you to learn an instrument and practice hard so that you could get to play in a youth orchestra one day. The wonderful fifteen-Year-old flute player, Emi, tosses her head, just like the lady at my first concert.

As we were putting this recording together for you, we realized there was some space left over, so I thought it would be fun to share another of the happy memories of my childhood. When I was about your age my father used to read Winnie-the-Pooh stories to me. He loved Pooh and he used to say that he knew someone in real life, who was just like every character in the Pooh stories. And it's true: my sister is just like Rabbit, bossy, and encouraging and awfully efficient. And I know someone just like Eeyore, though I won't tell you who it is, because he might be upset, though I think everyone really loves Eeyore, even though he is gloomy and sorry for himself. My step-daughter sails I am just like bouncy Tigger, but I like to think of myself more like Pooh: thoughtful, helpful and a little confused. Anyway, whenever something happens that I don't like I say: "Bother," said Pooh.

My favorite story was always Poohsticks and so that is the one I read most to my children, Jessica, Alexandra and Evan when they were young and NOW I am reading it to my grandchildren Maya and Vivian (who is really too young, but reminds me a bit of Roo) and to all of you. One day, you might read it to your children!

-Benjamin Zander


Hansel and Gretel, a Fable for Narrator and Orchestra, Op. 59, is based on the classic Grimm fairy talc. The children in the original story do not lose their way in the forest, but, much more scarily, are deliberately abandoned by their starving stepmother and father. Both children-especially Gretel-triumph as the heroes of their perilous adventure.

This piece, written in August 2001, was commissioned and designed to introduce the instruments of the orchestra to children under the age of twelve. As the narrator tells us, various instruments represent the characters of the story. The French horns play the father's music, the stepmother is played on a muted trumpet, Gretel is represented by the violin and Hansel by the cello. Three friendly animals are heard in the woodwinds: with a tip of the hat to Prokofiev's Peter and the Wolf, their cat is played by the clarinet, the bird is played by a flute, and the duck by the oboe. The wicked witch is heard on the xylophone.

In addition certain elements of the story are painted by the music. For example, the jewels the children find shine in the orchestra. The evil step-mother and the witch share the interval of a tritone, and both have similar motives drawn from a half diminished seventh chord. The father's music centers around c minor, and the music for Hansel and Gretel is closely related to G major.

Hansel and Gretel, finished in August 2001, was commissioned by New England Conservatory Preparatory School, Mark Churchill, Dean. It was written with the instrumentation of the Youth Philharmonic Orchestra and with its conductor, Benjamin Zander, in mind. They gave the world premiere at New England Conservatory's Jordan Hall, November 3, 2002. I also arranged the work as a Suite for Piano, Op. 65, for intermediate piano students.

-Larry Bell Hansel and Gretel is published by Casa Rustica Publications (BMI) ©2001 Larry Bell


Composer Larry Bell has been awarded the Rome Prize, fellowships from the Guggenheim and Rockefeller Foundations, and the Charles Ives Award. Bell's music has been widely performed in the United States and abroad. Recordings of his works appear on North/South, Vicuna Modern Masters, and Barkingdog labels. Jonathan Bass has recorded Bell's twelve preludes and fugues, Ayano Ninomiya has released the complete violin music, and Bell's cello music is recorded by Eric Bartlett (all N/S CDs).

As a pianist Bell has given recitals throughout the United States, and in Italy, Austria, and Japan. Bell frequently records for Boston's WGBH radio, and has given a live broadcast on the World Wide Web. He has recorded his Piano Concerto, Piano Sonata, The Black Cat, River of Ponds, The Book of Moonlight, and Just As I Am, on compact disc.

Larry Bell received his DMA from The Juilliard School, working with Vincent Persichetti and Roger Sessions. Chair of the Music Theory Department at the New England Conservatory Preparatory and Continuing Education Division, he has taught composition at The Boston Conservatory since 1980. Bell is married to musicologist Andrea Olmstead. For a complete catalog of works, including program notes and sound files, visit


Disc One: Read CD Essay

1. Peter and the Wolf - Sergi Prokofiev [26:41]
2. Hansel and Gretel - Larry Bell [30:23]
3. "Poohsticks" - A.A. Milne [20:19]
From The House at Pooh Corner, in The Complete Tales and Poems of Winnie-the-Pooh read by Benjamin Zander
Total time [77:24]



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