Wednesday, December 2, 2009
Three Cheers for Pooh
Some of my readers know of my fanatical devotion to what has got to be the best children's record ever made, a now-obscure 1952 recording of song settings of A.A. Milne's Pooh and Christopher Robin poems. The record predates the Disney-Pooh industrial complex; the musical settings -- really art songs -- were composed in the 1920s, shortly after the first publication of the Pooh books, by English composer H. Fraser-Simson. The excellence of the Fraser-Simson Pooh songs is enhanced even more, on this recording, by the rather odd fact that they are scored for woodwind quartet, and by the equally odd fact that they are sung and narrated by the wonderful blacklisted American actor Jack Gilford (the fact that he couldn't work in the 1950s is likely the reason he made this record to begin with). Gilford is an idiosyncratic, but adorable, Pooh -- whoever imagined Winnie with a Brooklyn accent? And the songs really are marvelous.
I found today that some Very Wonderful Person has made a zip file of a later recording of the Fraser-Simson Pooh songs of which I was unaware, this one by Welsh tenor Robert Tear and pianist Philip Ledger. Though it lacks the eccentric charm of the Jack Gilford-woodwind quartet version -- Tear's reading of the songs is very straight -- it is a lovely recording of some wonderful, little-known music. And this Same Wonderful Person has also uploaded the unavailable 1975 Maurice Sendak-Carole King television special, "Really Rosie" (from which my dear friend who posts on this blog occasionally derives her moniker), which you can watch in Quicktime. Bless you, Wonderful Person, whoever you are -- you have improved my life immeasurably.