Prokofiev’s Peter and the Wolf

Possibly the one thing that imprinted a love for classical music for the rest of my life was an album I owned as a kid and absolutely loved. That album was Prokofiev’s ‘Peter and the Wolf’. My album was in Dutch, of course, and narrated by Henk van Ulsen. I recently got my children the modern take on it (narrated by Paul de Leeuw), and they love it too, although they still find it a little scary so they will only listen to it sitting safely on my lap!
In 1936, Prokofiev was commissioned to write a new musical symphony for children, with the intent to introduce school-going children to classical music. He composed the tale about Peter and the Wolf in just four days! The concept is simple: Each character in the story has a particular instrument and a musical theme, and it is thus very easy for a child to distinguish the different instruments.
I just looked around on the internet, and I found out that there are some pretty famous narrators of the story in English: Sting , David Bowie Dame Edna , even Clinton, Gorbachev and Sophia Loren did a recording! Although Richard Baker ‘s version seems to be the one that people recall most from when they were little.
I don’t think I will ever grow tired of the story of this storey… Did you own a Peter and the Wolf album as a kid? And do your children love it?

xxx Esther

PS picture from here




Comments (11)

October 8, 2010

We also listened to Peter and the Wolf and I liked the old version better than the new one. Please also try Alfred J. Kwak, the original version by Herman van Veen. All of us (not just the children) love to listen to that.

October 8, 2010

We have the book with accompanying CD. My son LOVES it. He loves to identify which instruments play for the different characters. (The Wolf is the French Horn!) I bought it from Amazon sometime last year. I have found books on CD to be the perfect solution to a restless toddler in the car!

GREAT post!

October 8, 2010

In a couple of weeks, we are going to the CSO (Chicago Symphony Orchestra) to hear Peter and the Wolf (or at least parts of it) as part of its children’s series. I’m very excited about it. We need to get a copy at home.

October 8, 2010

My children adore this piece and my 3 year-old son has listened to it, and acted it out through play, non-stop for more than a year. We listen to Leonard Bernstein’s reading. The only problem is that my son is convinced he must learn to play French horn, an instrument one really can not take up until much older. My daughter plays violin, but I can’t convince my boy to try it up now that he loves the wolf so very much!
We accidentally picked up an old copy of the Disney book at a yard sale and the kids were horrified at how much the story had been altered. Boo, Disney! They turn Peter into a vicious hunter, totally turning the essence of his character on its head!

October 8, 2010

Jaap van Lelieveld has some kind of ‘Peter and the Wolf’-database where you can find loads of free (!!) versions of Peter and the Wolf: the one by David Bowie, wich I think is so pretty!!

October 9, 2010

yup we had it, my children have it
loved by all!

Esther in Amsterdam
October 9, 2010

@ Steph — that sounds lovely! I’m going to check if we have something likewise in Amsterdam!
@ Annemarieke — I agree. I can’t find the old version on CD though!
@ Tina — I so agree. We use an Ipod with a splitter and headphones and it’s quiet for hours back there!
@ Juliua — my son Pim (3) is wild about the trumpet. I keep suggesting guitar, or piano to him, but he’s pretty persistent about the trumpet. Ugh.
@ Hiskia — that’s brilliant!! Thanks! The correct link is
@ Cate — which version do you like best?

October 11, 2010

I must admit I did not like it much as a child even though I even heard it live with my father in the orchestra!

My daughter (3 years) saw a ballet with Peter and the wolf and got hooked at once! She listens to it, dances, remembers the different animals and their melodies, and now I even tell her the story (including the music…) by heart at bedtime.

October 13, 2010

it’s interesting. i was just talking to a good friend the other day about pivotal moments in a kids life – those (often random) events that have such a huge impact that the effect is felt forever. i took my boy to see peter and the wolf (at amsterdam’s carre theater) for his 3rd birthday. i really think to date i can’t point to anything else that has had such a big impact on him – music, drama, story telling … the piece has it all. genius stuff.
the royal ballet school (london) did a gorgeous performance of it – sadly unavailable on DVD but i have been trying to get it everywhere – i think one clip is still available on youtube. also, my boy is terrified of it, but the 2008 animated version (won an academy award) is on youtube too.

October 13, 2010

oh sorry – everything i refer to has been taken down.
the film really is beautiful though – they have used a clip here:

June 20, 2011

Great post! I prefer Richard Baker’s narration – and believe it is by far the best recording; all others simply pale in comparison.

I am always moved and inspired by how much audiences love “Peter and the Wolf.” My wife and I invent theatrical adaptions of classic stories for orchestras. Since 2005, I have had the honor of performing our original, vaudeville-inspired, solo “Peter and the Wolf” with the orchestras around the country – (including the Philadelphia Orchestra, Saint Louis Symphony Orchestra, Richmond Symphony Orchestra, New Haven Symphony Orchestra, Annapolis Symphony Orchestra, Westchester Philharmonic, Symphony in C) – and families enthusiastically flock to experience Prokofiev’s “Peter and the Wolf”. It’s a masterpiece of storytelling – told with simplicity, clearly defined characters, and memorable melodies – which serves as the barometer by which all other family/children’s compositions are measured. I wholeheartedly believe that “Peter and the Wolf”, a work of genius, will stand the test of time, and Prokofiev’s delightful and playful composition will continue to be enjoyed by generations two hundred years from now.

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