Sergei Prokofiev

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”).

Note: This work belongs to the Classical Music Top 100.

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”):

1 Quote about Prokofiev's Peter and the Wolf

"What kind of bird are you if you can't fly?" - "What kind of bird are you if you can't swim?"

Cat and bird from "Peter and the Wolf" are arguing

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