For the next two weeks, I’m going to be discussing what I refer to as: “The Five Musical Musts.” I call them this because, in my opinion, they are pieces of music that introduce a child to classical music in such a fun and entertaining way that they become musical legacies in your child’s life.
They include: “Peter and the Wolf,” “The Carnival of Animals,” “The Young Person’s Guide to Instruments of the Orchestra,” “Nutcracker,” and “The Sorcerer’s Apprentice.”
We’ll start with “Peter and the Wolf,” a musical fairytale by Russian composer, Sergei Prokofiev. Prokofiev loved fairy tales and was rather child-like himself. He understood that children loved music so he combined the two—music and fairytales—and wrote “Peter and the Wolf.”
The story is narrated with music accompaniment. Each character in the story is represented by an instrument of the orchestra: Peter is represented by the strings; the bird by the flute; the duck by the oboe; the cat by the clarinet; Peter’s grandfather by the bassoon; the hunters by the bass drum and the wolf by the brass.
Like most fairytales, the story addresses itself to a child’s sense of courage, adventure, and risk-taking—as well as a little bit of disobedience. Peter disobeys his grandfather and ventures out into the meadow where he comes face-to-face with the mean, hungry wolf.
In a rather tense moment, Peter manages (with the help of his friends the cat and the bird) to tie the wolf’s tail to a tree making it impossible for him to move. Just in the nick of time, the hunters come out of the forest and they make short work of the wolf. Everything turns out in the end with Peter the hero of the story.
The ending of “Peter and the Wolf” varies with the demise of the wolf—in some versions, he is taken to the zoo and in some versions, he is destroyed, so you may want to pick your version carefully.
There are many delightful versions and narrations of “Peter and the Wolf.” Some of my favorites include narrations by Sting, Melissa Joan Hart (as Clarissa) and “Weird Al” Yankovic.
The Yankovic CD is a hilarious, up-dated, hip performance of the fairytale with Peter’s grandfather eventually leaving the forest and joining a rock band. Regardless of what version you play for your children, it will become one of their childhood favorites!
CD Suggestions for Peter & the Wolf:
CD: Peter and the Wolf narrated by Melissa Joan Hart, Boston Symphony Orchestra
CD: Peter and the Wolf” narrated by Sting The Chamber Orchestra of Europe
CD: “Peter and the Wolf” narrated by “Weird Al” Yankovic, performed by Wendy Carlos and the LSI Philharmonic. (This is out-of-print, but look for it used. It was my sons’ favorite!)
Book: Peter and the Wolf retold by Loriot, pictures by Jorg Muller
Book: Peter and the Wolf: A Bellerophon Coloring Book: These are paper dolls that need to be colored. Your child may enjoy coloring them and then act out the story—join them for some family fun!