September is now national "Classical Music Month," and kids can get hip to a classical sound with a growing number of friendly, quality recordings that prove such fare is not only accessible and engaging, but a feast for the imagination. A sampling:
Prokofiev's "Peter and the Wolf," narrated by none other than the kids' kid herself (even though she's now a grown-up 18), Melissa Joan Hart, star of Nickelodeon's "Clarissa Explains It All." Hart's style is lively, casual and well-spoken and the orchestra is top-notch: the Boston Symphony Orchestra, with Seiji Ozawa conducting. The recording also features Saint-Saens' "Carnival of the Animals" and Benjamin Britten's "The Young Person's Guide to the Orchestra." Sony Classical. Cassette: $9.98. CD: $13.98. Widely available. For older children and adults, Tchaikovsky's "Swan Lake," performed by the St. Louis Symphony conducted by Leonard Slatkin, is another in the outstanding boxed gift sets from RCA Victor Red Seal that include illustrated CDs, exquisite character die-cuts, fold-out stage scenes and a glossy guide to story, dance and instrumentation in English, German and French. Also available: "The Sleeping Beauty" and "The Nutcracker." RCA Victor Red Seal/BMG Classics. Boxed set (two CDs): $27.98 at Tower Classical. Mail order: (800) 221-8180. And, for very young listeners, more Tchaikovsky, coming in October for the holidays: The return of the delightful "Lamb Chop's Nutcracker Suite," a quirky retelling by Emmy-winning Shari Lewis of the classic E.T.A. Hoffmann tale and Tchaikovsky ballet. Lewis and her adorable but salty puppet pal make this one a keeper. A&M Records. Cassette: $9.98. CD: Prices vary. At Kmart and other retailers or call (800) 541-9904. El Rey Leon: A Spanish version of Walt Disney Records' "Lion King" soundtrack is now available on CD and cassette at record retailers, mass merchants and other stores. The release is the latest in the company's growing catalogue of Spanish-language versions of its classics, from "La Bella y La Bestia" to "Blanca Nieves y Los Siete Enanos."