That's Deborah Henson-Conant, the composer and author, reading the opening from her musical sequel to "The Frog Prince" -- just in time for Jacob Grimm's birthday tomorrow. The well-known German philologist and folklorist was born in 1785, a year before his brother, Wilhelm. The Grimms were struggling young scholars who had become passionate collectors of the stories that were still being told by word of mouth in Germany at the time. The first volume of what the Grimms called their "Household Tales" appeared in 1812, and it was soon followed by others, which included "The Frog Prince" -- the starting point for Deborah Henson-Conant's tale. While the Grimms did not think of their stories -- at least not at first -- as tales for children, Ms. Henson-Conant does place hers in this light. For one thing, it's free of those often dark and violent undercurrents that many of the traditional tales have. And yet it has not banished all worries and concerns: There's great sadness in Amphibia's life as she grows up and her beloved father dies, and she is on the verge of becoming the ruler of the kingdom. All should be well, but she is desperately afraid that she will revive the curse of her late father and be turned into a frog herself -- until she learns to listen to her secret self and the music it makes. Music is the key to the story, and the musical themes that Ms. Henson-Conant weaves through this tale turn it into a kind of modern tone poem that may be set in the present, but that also takes you back to once upon a time, to the Grimms, and to all those anonymous tale-tellers who sang their work to eager ears:
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Copyright 2003 © John Cech
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