Lisa Sousa - Contena

Lisa Sousa

Peter and the Wolf by Sergei Prokofiev
1 minute read
Composed 1936 by Russian composer Sergei Prokofiev (April 27, 1891-March 5, 1953), "Peter and the Wolf" Op67 is one of the most well known and frequently performed classical works for orchestra written by the composer. Consisting of a narrator and an orchestra, it introduces children to the orchestra and its instruments in its introduction. The characters, representing specific instruments include the string section as Peter, a flute as the Bird, an oboe as the Duck, a clarinet as a Cat, a bassoon as the Grandfather, horn trio as the Wolf, and trumpet and woodwinds as the Hunters with the timpani and bass drum as the gunshots. After living abroad and shifting from Paris to Moscow for four years, Prokofiev, along with his wife and young sons, settled permanently in Moscow in early 1936. In that same year, Natalya Sats, director of the Central Children's Theater in Moscow, commissioned the composer to write a musical symphony for young children. To introduce the children to a symphony orchestra, children's author Antonina Sakonskaya wrote the first draft of the narration. This narration told the story of Peter, who was a Young Pioneer (the Soviet equivalent to the American Boy Scout) who disobeys his Grandfather and, in doing so, rights a great wrong. Dissatisfied by the rhyming nature of Sakonskaya's work, Prokofiev wrote the well-known version that also promotes the virtues of resourcefulness, vigilance, and bravery. After writing a piano version on April 15, and completing the orchestrations on April 24, they debuted "Peter and the Wolf" on May 2, 1936, with the Moscow Philharmonic at the Moscow Conservatory's main hall. Natalya Sats, who was ill on the day of the debut, could not do the narration. They brought in a new substitute to fill her role. Unfortunately, with this substitute narrator, the performance failed to attract the attention of the audience. Later that month, another performance of "Peter and the Wolf"  proved a success at the Moscow Pioneer Palace with Sats as the narrator. Soon after its success at the Moscow Pioneer Palace, "Peter and the Wolf" began charming audiences around the globe. In March 1938, the work made its American debut with Prokofiev conducting the Boston Symphony Orchestra at the Symphony Hall in Boston. Natalya Sats, a victim of Josef Stalin's regime, was arrested in 1937 and was serving a sentence in a gulag during the American premiere. American operatic and concert vocalist, Richard Hale served as the narrator on this occasion. Sats was acquitted and released in 1953 upon the death of Stalin. Loved by millions with over 400 different recordings in 12 different languages, "Peter and the Wolf" has had its share of world-famous people serving as narrators. Some of these celebrities include Leonard Bernstein, Patrick Stewart, Sting, Sophia Loren, Alice Cooper, Former President Bill Clinton, and Former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev. "Peter and the Wolf" also had film adaptation including a Disney version in 1946, an animated children's special in 1995, and a Polish-British-Norwegian-Mexican stop motion short on 2006.  *This is a program note that was written for the Coeur d'Alene Symphony Orchestra for their Family Concert January 2020. *
Published May 13, 2020