Classical Disney

Copyright © Fred Flaxman, 1997

The first time I heard a cut from Heigh-Ho! Mozart: Favorite Disney Tunes in the Style of Great Classical Composers (Delos DE 3186) I was tuned to my local public radio station. I knew I had to have this CD, and I was right to make sure I got it. Heigh-Ho! Mozart deserves a special award as the cleverest compact disc of the year it was issued. But, not only that. It is very well performed by top artists, well recorded by top engineers, fun... and educational. It could do more to bring young people to classical music than any media event since The Lone Ranger taught American kids The William Tell Overture.

Heigh-Ho! makes Beauty and the Beast into a lush Rachmaninov piano concerto, superbly played by Carol Rosenberger and the English Chamber Orchestra. Colors of the Wind from "Pocahontas" turns into a Dvorak tone poem. Under the Sea from "The Little Mermaid" becomes a Scott Joplin rag. Feed the Birds from "Mary Poppins" sounds as though Brahms wrote it, and Who's Afraid of the Big Bad Wolf? from "The Three Little Pigs" is transformed into an utterly convincing Johann Strauss waltz.

Kids will be attracted to the Disney tunes they already know. Classical music loving adults will get a kick out of hearing these pieces as though they were written by their favorite composers. You can't help but smile the first time you hear With a Smile and a Song from "Snow White" played on the piano as though it were a mazurka by Chopin, or Little April Shower from "Bambi" seemingly coming from the pen of Georg Frederick Handel!

The British composer-conductor Donald Fraser, who did all these clever arrangements and conducts on this CD, teaches us by example one of the most important lessons about classical music: Great composers each write in a style that is uniquely and originally theirs. Fraser has successfully isolated the essential ingredients of these different styles and applied them to melodies these composers didn't write.

It's not surprising that Heigh-Ho! Mozart was the winner of a Parents' Choice honor. It is also not astonishing that this CD has made it to the top of Billboard's Top Classical Crossover chart. With flutist Eugenia Zukerman playing Winnie the Pooh in the style of Prokofiev, and I Wanna Be Like You from "The Jungle Book" performed by the Los Angeles Guitar Quartet in perfect imitation of the music of Hector Villa-Lobos, how could this CD miss?

Heigh-Ho! Mozart was the brainchild of Delos product manager Al Lutz, a longtime Disney enthusiast who has wanted to do this album for 15 years. His idea was to introduce today's audiences to classical music by using some of the most familiar and beloved melodies in movie history. Having worked with Donald Fraser on several other projects, Lutz knew Fraser was the right person for this project. When Lutz joined Delos in 1994, he found great enthusiasm for his long-cherished idea, and that was shared by Fraser and the artists who were brought together to turn this dream into a highly successful reality.

Heigh-Ho! Mozart is now Delos' best-selling album ever. This consistent American producer of high-quality classical compact discs, this small company which specializes in recording worthwhile but little-known music by American composers, certainly deserves this hit.

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