Peter and the Wolf

Premiering in 1936 at the Moscow Children's Theater, the orchestral work known as "Peter and the Wolf" was written by which composer?

And the answer: Sergei Prokofiev.

Photo courtesy: outschool.com

Written as a "symphonic fairy tale for children," Peter and the Wolf features a narrator who tells the story of Peter, his grandfather, and his encounters with various animals, while the orchestra illustrates the themes and characters of the story.

In 1936, Russian composer Sergei Prokofiev began his work on Peter and the Wolf as a commission for the Moscow Children's Theater. Inspired by the idea of associating a motif with a single instrument (or group of instruments), the composer completed the entire score and story within the course of two weeks. In the end, the score was ripe for teaching children what and how each instrument may be used, and not without a moral to take away as well.

The story is as follows: a boy (depicted by strings) wanders through the wood. He spots a duck (oboe), a bird (flute), and a cat (clarinet). After an unsuccessful attempt by the cat to catch the bird, the boy's grandfather (bassoon) enters the scene to reprimand the young boy for straying too close to where the wolf prowls. Allowing his grandfather to guide him home, Peter sure enough soon spots the wolf (horns), who threatens the duck, cat, and bird. Peter bravely catches the wolf with a bit of rope, and urges the hunters who arrive (timpani and bass drum) to take the wolf to a zoo rather than kill him. They oblige, and march off in happy harmony.

From its first performance for children, the orchestral work was a hit. It was soon performed again in Moscow, gaining traction in groups of all ages. In the end, Peter's bravery as depicted through music became a well-loved story, and continues to be played for children across the world to teach them of the wonders of music.

Listen to the full production as played by the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra below.


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