Walt Disney Records, 2001
REVIEW BY: Christopher Thelen
ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 01/01/2000
Maybe the one good thing about movies like Fantasia is that they expose children to classical music -- quite possibly, his is the first time they ever hear this type of music, and it is an eye-opening experience. I know my first experience with classical music came thanks to A&P Food Store and the Funk & Wagnalls Family Library Of Great Music.
With the recent release of the movie Fantasia/2000, a new generation of kids are getting the opportunity to learn the powers of classical music. It doesn't matter if they don't know who Beethoven is off the top of their heads, but if the opening notes of his "Symphony No. 5" stick with them, then a powerful lesson has been learned.
Of course, does the music from a film like Fantasia/2000 carry the same punch when separated into its soundtrack album? I haven't had the chance to drop down to the IMAX theater in Chicago to see the film -- let's be honest, I have yet to get through the original Fantasia -- so I can't speak accurately on the comparison. (Actually, the movie opens on New Year's Day 2000, and I'm writing this a few days prior, so I have a good reason for not seeing the movie.) But I can imagine that some of the staying power is lost if you don't see the film.
One reason, of course, is that kids (and, for that matter, adults) will tend to tie a certain piece of music to a cartoon that catches their fancy. We'll all remember Dukas's "The Sorcerer's Apprentice" thanks to the image of the multiplying mops carrying buckets of water, leaving Mickey helpless to do anything else but create more mayhem. It may seem silly, but it works - and that's why movies like Fantasia and Fantasia/2000 are so important. ("The Sorcerer's Apprentice" is featured on the soundtrack for Fantasia/2000, and is included in the movie as well.)
Other pieces are sure to be miniature educations as well. I'm almost 30, and I think that listening to Fantasia/2000 marked the first time I had ever heard the entire piece "Rhapsody In Blue" by George Gershwin. If all you know of the piece are snippets from the ads for United Airlines, you might be surprised to hear where each little portion came from -- and, no, they don't all run together neatly.
There were some times where I wish that the volume had been boosted a bit in the final mix; at times, I thouht portions of Respighi's "Pines Of Rome" and Stravinsky's "Firebird Suite - 1919 Version" had gone to dead air. At those times, it was hard to keep focused - and you can imagine how quickly the kids would be lost without the visual aids on the screen.
The fact is, without the movie playing as well, Fantasia/2000 is not going to be an album that will lock the kids in front of the stereo for an hour. They might pop by when a piece they remember from the movie comes on, but that's about it. If anything, this disc is aimed more at the adults - wait, let me rephrase that: the young at heart - who have had more exposure to this genre, and who can appreciate the music without needing the crutch of having the cartoons play in synchronization.
Selection-wise, this disc is a mixed bag. I can't say that I'd be more open to buying discs featuring Respighi's music, but I did leave the disc with a new appreciation for the work of Shostakovich, whose "Piano Concerto No. 2, Allegro Opus 102" is featured. I guess that goes to prove that even an old dog can still learn new tricks - and Fantasia/2000 is a nice introduction to those new tricks, as well as a refresher course on pieces we know.