More than a year after conductor Claudio Abbado passed away, the Chinese version of his classic album Peter and the Wolf finally debuted in China on Monday in conjunction with International Children's Day. Chinese musician Tan Dun and actress Zhao Wei were invited as the narrators for this symphony fairy tale especially made for children.
To celebrate the album's launch and commemorate Abbado, Tan held a concert at the National Centre of Performing Arts along with the China National Symphony Orchestra on Sunday night to present the symphonic fairy tales.
Prokofiev composed this symphony in 1936 on commission from Natalya Sats and the Central Children's Theatre in Moscow. While a narrator tells the story of Peter and the Wolf, different musical instruments play the roles of different animals in the story imitating the sounds of these animals.
The music for the album was originally recorded in 1994 with Abbado conducting The Chamber Orchestra of Europe. It has been introduced into many countries, with different stars or musicians from each country taking on the role of narrator. The original US edition was narrated by Sting and the soundtrack has been used in a number of TV specials.
When Abbado came to China in 2009, he discovered Chinese audiences' great passion for classic music. Talking to Dave Tam, the marketing director of Classics & Jazz of Universal Music China, Abbado explained he wanted to invite Chinese celebrities to introduce this fantasy story to children in China. A well-known musician and conductor, Tan was the first person to come to Abbado's mind, while Zhao, who was first widely known for her lively role as Xiaoyanzi (little swallow) in the 1990s TV show Return of the Pearl Princess, was selected by Abbado and Tam. However due to Tan and Zhao's busy schedule the final narration of the story wasn't recorded until January of 2014. That same month, Abbado passed away before he had the chance to listen to the final Chinese version of his Peter and the Wolf.
The album can also be seen as a present from mothers and fathers. Five years ago, Zhao became a mother. Now that her series Tiger Mother and Cat Father has completed its TV run, she is now changing her image from a tiger mom to a gentle mother who tells bedtime stories.
At a press conference on Sunday, Tan told media that his 10-year-old son was very into the album. "He is very serious about music. He plays violin and other instruments and has his own taste when it comes to both classic music and rock. Sometimes he even doesn't like my own work. But he enjoys this album very much. So I sincerely recommend it to other children."