After eighteen years of self-imposed exile in Europe and America, Prokofiev returned to his native Russia in 1936. Shortly afterward, he was approached by Natalia Satz, director of the Moscow Musical Theater for Children, with a proposal to write a play that would introduce children to the instruments of the orchestra. Prokofiev embraced the idea wholeheartedly. He wrote the music to “Peter and the Wolf” in just one week, and orchestrated it the next. He dedicated the work to Ms. Satz, and it was introduced to the public in May 1936.
I don’t remember my own introduction to “Peter and the Wolf”, but my brother Mort informs me that in 1952, when I was but four years old, he was given a set of 78 rpm records of “Peter” that quickly became one of his favorites. That recording of “Peter and the Wolf” may well have been the first classical music I ever heard, and may have fostered not only my love of Prokofiev, but of classical music as a whole.
If so, then I owe a great debt to “Peter”, one I will attempt to repay here. Through this post, I hope to continue to introduce young people to the instruments of the symphony orchestra, to Prokofiev, and the world of classical music.
This video has everything! First, of course, there is Prokofiev’s magical score. Who can forget the optimism of Peter’s theme, the menace of the Wolf, the grumpy Grandfather, cheery Bird, stealthy Cat, and plaintive Duck? We also have Jörg Müller’s loving illustrations. Children will learn not only the instruments’ distinctive voices, but also what they look like. And for the music student, we even have the musical notation for each of the characters’ themes.
The narration in this video is by the great violinist Itzhak Perlman, and the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra is led by Zubin Mehta. Share it with your children, or grandchildren!