Prokofiev Symphonic Fairy Tale Peter and the Wolf

Classical Music Milestone, May 2.

Sergei Prokofiev's Famous Fairy Tale Premieres


Peter and the Wolf (Russian, Petya i volk), Op. 67 (1936), is a composition written by Sergei Prokofiev in May 2, 1936.  It is a symphonic fairy tale for children. The composer also wrote the text, which is spoken by a narrator and accompanied by the orchestra.

Each character in the story has a musical theme (leitmotif) and a particular instrument. Sergei Prokofiev's symphonic fairy tale Peter and the Wolf is scored for the following instruments. Duration of the work is approximately half an hour.
  • Peter: string instruments
  • Bird: flute
  • Duck: oboe
  • Cat: clarinet
  • Grandfather: bassoon
  • Wolf: French horns
  • Hunters: woodwind, with gunshots on timpani and bass drum




Synopsis of Peter and the Wolf


Peter, a young boy, lives in a forest clearing at his grandfather's home.  One day he goes out leaving the garden gate open. The duck that lives in the yard takes the opportunity to go swimming in a pond nearby. The duck starts arguing with a little bird ("What kind of bird are you if you can't fly?" – "What kind of bird are you if you can't swim?"). Peter's cat stalks them quietly. The bird flies to safety in a tall tree while the duck swims to safety in the middle of the pond.

His grandfather scolds him for being outside in the meadow and chides him: "Suppose a wolf came out of the forest?" When Peter defies him, saying that boys like him are not afraid of wolves, his grandfather takes him back into the house and locks the gate. Soon enough Peter's grandfather is right as a big, grey wolf comes out of the forest. The cat quickly climbs into a tree. Unfortunately, the duck, who has excitedly jumped out of the pond, is chased, overtaken then swallowed by the wolf.  Peter fetches a rope and climbs over the garden wall into the tree. As a distraction, Peter asks the bird to fly around the wolf's head while he lowers a noose to catch the wolf by its tail. The wolf struggles to get free, but Peter ties the rope to the tree; the noose gets tighter.

All along hunters have been tracking the wolf. They enter the scene and come out of the forest ready to shoot, but Peter gets them to help him take the wolf to a zoo in a victory parade.

This work has been conceived as a children's introduction to the orchestra.


Video Credit:

Peter and the Wolf.  Youtube, uploaded by DigaPix.  Accessed May 3, 2016.


Resources:

S. Shlifstein. ed. Sergei Prokofiev:  Autobiography, Articles, Reminiscences. Rose Prokofieva (translator). (@000) [1960] The Minerva Group, Inc. p. 89.

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