LISTENING to Peter and the Wolf

JUST LISTEN to these characters:   A happy carefree young boy, a scolding grandfather, a sneaky cat, a hapless duck, a hyper little bird, and an ominous and hungry mean old Wolf.   Yes, I am referring to the story of Peter and the Wolf by Sergei Prokofiev, and I highly recommend repeated listening to these characters to ALL families.  Even though the wolf can be a little scary for very young, or tender hearted children, it is an engaging story, and a fabulous introduction to discriminatory listening as the different instruments in the orchestra relate the story.

In our first year of Kindermusik for the Young Child, we study the different instruments and instrument families in the orchestra, culminating with the woodwinds and the introduction to the Peter and the Wolf story with colorful cut out characters matched with their musical counterparts.  So I wanted to share a bit more of what I could find online with my students.  I hope you enjoy it too.

This introduction by Wikipedia made me laugh:  “In 1936 Sergei Prokofiev was commissioned by Natalya Sats and the Central Children’s Theatre in Moscow to write a new musical symphony for children. The intent was to cultivate “musical tastes in children from the first years of school”.Intrigued by the invitation, Prokofiev completed Peter and the Wolf in just four days. The debut on 2 May 1936 was, in the composer’s words, inauspicious at best: “…[attendance] was poor and failed to attract much attention”.”   I can fully relate to that feeling.   Although, it quickly became more popular, and stands the test of time as a classic, esp. for children.

Personally, I love the fact that Peter is much like many children, he is mostly joyful and carefree,  but he has a strong will, and is not afraid to take risks.  That may be a bit daunting to us parents who are raising such children, but it does serve Peter well as a wolf threatens his bit of the forest.  I like to think that the strong will in my children will help them overcome life’s challenges in creative ways !!!

I found a fabulous online introduction by Phil Tulga to Peter and the Wolf, specifically designed as an interactive experience for children.  There is an interesting introduction to the composer, as well an audio clip with each instrument as it is used to portray the specific characters in the story, AND it includes the original story by Prokofiev.  There is even a wonderful writing prompt to “finish off” the end of this story that seems somewhat open-ended.  How will you and your children add to the end of this story?

(As a bonus, there are links to two of his online activities that help children explore rhythms, and begin to more fully understand these beats and how they work together to make rhythms:  Counting Music, and Playing Fraction Pies.  So… if you make some rhythms, make sure to email them to me – musiconnx@att.net.  If my students email me a rhythm they make (and like), they will get a special sticker in class !)

Families can enjoy the full story just by LISTENING !  It is one of the first, best “audio-books” – originally performed by the full live orchestra, but now offered in so many ways.

On Classics for Kids, the Kid’s Radio Show on Prokofiev tells the story and introduces these delighful musical characters.  And for those who want to more fully explore these themes can use the lesson plans for grade 1-3.

This narration works beautifully with the music, requiring no visual to help the story come alive.  There are many recordings, even one with David Bowie as the narrator.  But I usually recommend a set of CDs that include this classic, along with so many others written specifically for children by famous composers.  Classics for Children by Decca Records.  Presto Classical currently offers this set for just $12.50.   Here in this musical set is an investment in your child’s musical life you will forever appreciate !

If you are ready for unique visual interpretations, videos are available on YouTube.

Of course, Disney’s version (1946 film),  is the most recognized and probably the most appropriate introduction for young children (although, as usual, not strictly true to the original story line… but close enough).

 

Recently, one of my Young Child families recommended a 2006 stop animation Peter and the Wolf film on Netflix, and is also available in parts on YouTube.  It includes the music ONLY, there is no dialogue, but the visuals are effective enough to create a totally different Peter and the Wolf experience.  It more effectively portrays an impoverished Winter in Russia around the era that it was written, and is therefore a bit more “dark and scary”, so it is not as appropriate for younger children.   (Thanks to Amy of Mamascout, who is always finding unique and creative things to share !)

How do you and your child enjoy this classical story by Prokofiev ?   Please share !

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