Peter and the Wolf

"Peter and the wolf" is right up there on the list of the greatest compositions of all time.  This is one of my favorite performances of it, narrated by Ralph Richardson with the London Symphony Orchestra conducted by Malcolm Sargent.  The piece is billed as being for "Children of All Ages", and it really is.  Like all great works of art it can be appreciated at any level, from barely knowing what the instruments are to detailed harmonic analysis.  Go, try to play some of it.  You'll find it's trickier than it sounds.  For the latter, we are lucky that Prokofiev penned his own piano reduction of the piece.

Sadly in the world of orcs "children's" is a word suffix that often means "of the worst possible quality".  See "childrens TV", "childrens menu", and even "childrens music" around Isengard and Mordor to see what kind of nonsense might befall you.  Those of you who wish to escape the cycle will be therefore glad to have a gem like this one.  It can be listened to thousands of times and every one will be time much better spent than any time in front of a TV or listening to  a 1 cent transistor power a 2 cent speaker in repeated dumbed-down disneyfied approximations of music.

The scariest part is when Peter warns the bird about the cat.  Brace yourself for those orchestra and cymbal hits.  There are many short cadenzas you might not even notice in passing but which stick with you.  After the first section of the bird introducing itself, there is an absolutely beautiful four bars of Andantino, come prima which capture brilliantly the peaceful meadow.  Two solitary grace notes by the bird cap them off before we are back to Peter's frolicking.  What a flute part!  That bird is always nearby watching in almost every scene.

It's hard to criticize this thing, though it's stubborn refusal to adhere to standard form might be a bit offsetting.  The ending is foreshadowed almost exactly as the hunters come out of the woods, but then an elaborate parade is staged and Sergei goes off a bit towards the end; perhaps this walk to the zoo is a bit too much for a conservative old dwarf like myself.  At least they don't kill the wolf.  The kettle drums aren't really so scary, a poor approximation of the armed orc.  The wolf appears to be singing Peter's song, and what is up with that duck still singing from the wolf's belly as an ending?  We are overjoyed to hear the oboe again but still, what is going on here?  And where is grandfather, he appears to be part cat at the end?  It comes to an abrupt close mid-procession.  Somebody go write a sequel already!  Are there no composers among us up to this task?

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