Peter and the Wolf
Explained using the 5-4-3-2-1 Method
Duration: 20–30 Minutes (depending on the duration of the narration between the musical numbers)
Genre: Musical Fairy Tale
Time of Creation: 1936
World Premiere: 02 May 1936
Table of Contents
Prokofiev's Peter and the Wolf in 5 Sentences
Prokofiev’s Peter and the Wolf is one of the most performed classical music pieces and one of the most popular works to introduce children to classical music. The musical fairy tale is about Peter, a little boy who lives with his grandfather and all kinds of animals, but one day has to outwit a wolf. Spoken narrative passages alternate with Prokofiev’s music, with Prokofiev assigning an instrument to each character: The violin stands for Peter, the flute for the bird, the oboe for the duck, the clarinet for the cat, the bassoon for the grandfather, the horn for the wolf, and the trumpet along with timpani for the hunters. With all the catchiness and “feel-good” atmosphere, it is often forgotten that the work was originally conceived for the purpose of educating children in the Stalin regime (original title: “The Pioneer Petya”).
4 Highlights from Prokofiev's Peter and the Wolf
Highlight 1: Peter
The story centers on Peter, who is characterized by the violins:
Highlight 2: Bird
Among the most familiar themes from Peter and the Wolf is the bird, represented by the flute:
Highlight 3: Grandfather
Peter lives with his grandfather, who hums like a bassoon:
Highlight 4: Wolf
The horns announce the wolf:
3 Questions and Answers about Prokofiev's Peter and the Wolf
Question 1: What happens to the wolf from Peter and the Wolf?
The wolf remains alive. He is caught by Peter and then taken to the zoo.
Question 2: Why did Prokofiev compose Peter and the Wolf?
After Prokofiev returned to the Soviet Union, he met Nataliya Saz, the director of the Moscow Children’s Theater. She wanted to familiarize children with orchestral instruments and then commissioned Prokofiev to write a work to that effect.
Question 3: Is Prokofiev's Peter and the Wolf famous?
Yes, Prokofiev’s Peter and the Wolf is one of the most famous pieces of classical music and is so popular that there are now numerous versions and arrangements of it. The work has also been frequently used as film music.
2 Recommended Recordings of Prokofiev's Peter and the Wolf
Recording 1: hr-Sinfonieorchester, Ulrich Noethen, Anna Skryleva (live, 2022)
I find this performance with the hr-Sinfonieorchester very successful. The well-known actor Ulrich Noethen takes the role of the narrator:
Recording 2: New York Philharmonic, Leopold Stokowski
If you want to experience the different sound ideal with which Prokofiev’s Peter and the Wolf was interpreted in former times, you can turn to this older recording with Leopold Stokowski and the New York Philharmonic (at that time under the name “Stadium Symphony Orchestra of New York”):