Yes, I know that it's virtually impossible to interpret Peter and the Wolf in a way that isn't fun. But there's something very special about the way Abbado looks at the work. I've heard several interpretations of the work (including Bernstein and Ormandy) but never has this popular children's tale come to life in such a vivid way that is undeniably brilliant. And Abbado seems just as inspired in the other works on this disc as well, particularly the Classical symphony, where the jollity brought over from Peter and the Wolf doesn't hurt at all.
DG got Sting to do the narration on Peter and the Wolf. Perhaps this was done more for marketing reasons than anything else, but either way, he's done a fine job. Sting consistently sounds like he's having fun and his engagement his irresistible. Everything is a bit more dramatized than usual, resulting in plenty of hilarity throughout, particularly with the grandfather--you'll have to laugh. But I think the real prize goes to Abbado who accompanies Sting with a real intensity that makes the work much more dramatic than I've ever heard it before. Once again, you just can't go wrong with him.
Moving on to the Classical Symphony, Abbado seems every bit as interesting, perhaps more so. While Prokofiev attempted to imitate the Classical period composers in this work, it's with a real sense of humor. Abbado sees this and makes the work overflow with dashing excitement. The Chamber Orchestra of Europe picks up on every nuance, making the work seem entirely unburdened. I certainly don't think anything is missing.
The other works on this disc, the March and Overture on Hebrew Themes, come off with plenty of their own charm. Everything good I had to say about the preceding works can be said about this too.
In closing, this is a fine album full of dashing good spirits. If you like giving yourself treats, you should buy this album.