“Soviet themes such as the stubbornness of the un-Bolshevik older generation”

Image: (Wikipedia) “”Little Red Riding Hood” is a European fairy tale about a young girl and a Big Bad Wolf. Other names for the story are: “Little Red Cap” or simply “Red Riding Hood”. It is number 333 in the Aarne–Thompson classification system for folktales.”

From Wikipedia:

“ “Peter and the Wolf (Russian: Пе́тя и волк, “Pétya i volk”, Op. 67, a “symphonic fairy tale for children”, is a musical composition written by Sergei Prokofiev in 1936. The narrator tells a children’s story, while the orchestra illustrates it by using different instruments to play a “theme” that represents each character in the story. It is Prokofiev’s most frequently performed work and one of the most frequently performed works in the entire classical repertoire.

In 1936, Prokofiev was commissioned by Natalya Sats, the director of the Central Children’s Theatre in Moscow, to write a musical symphony for children. Sats and Prokofiev had become acquainted after he visited her theatre with his sons several times. The intent was to introduce children to the individual instruments of the orchestra. The first draft of the libretto was about a Young Pioneer(the Soviet version of a Boy Scout) called Peter who rights a wrong by challenging an adult. (This was a common theme in propaganda aimed at children in the Soviet Union at the time.) However, Prokofiev was dissatisfied with the rhyming text produced by Nina Pavlovna Sakonskaya (real name Antonia Pavlovna Sokolovskaya, 1896–1951), a then popular children’s author. Prokofiev wrote a new version where Peter captures a wolf. As well as promoting desired Pioneer virtues such as vigilance, bravery and resourcefulness, the plot illustrates Soviet themes such as the stubbornness of the un-Bolshevik older generation (the grandfather) and the triumph of Man (Peter) taming Nature (the wolf).

Prokofiev produced a version for the piano in under a week, finishing it on April 15. The orchestration was finished on April 24. The work debuted at a children’s concert in the main hall of the Moscow Conservatory with the Moscow Philharmonic on 2 May 1936. However, Sats was ill and the substitute narrator inexperienced, and the performance failed to attract much attention. Later that month a much more successful performance with Sats narrating was given at the Moscow Pioneers Palace. The American premiere took place in March 1938, with Prokofiev himself conducting the Boston Symphony Orchestra at Symphony Hall, Bostonwith Richard Hale narrating. By that time Sats was serving a sentence in the gulag, where she was sent after her lover Marshal Mikhail Tukhachevsky was shot in June 1937.

Prokofiev produced detailed performance notes in both English and Russian for Peter and the Wolf. According to the English version:

Each character of this tale is represented by a corresponding instrument in the orchestra: the bird by a flute, the duck by an oboe, the cat by a clarinet playing staccato in a low register, the grandfather by a bassoon, the wolf by three horns, Peter by the string quartet, the shooting of the hunters by the kettle drums and bass drum. Before an orchestral performance it is desirable to show these instruments to the children and to play on them the corresponding leitmotivs. Thereby, the children learn to distinguish the sounds of the instruments during the performance of this tale.

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