London Philharmonic Orchestra - Peter And The Wolf

London Philharmonic Orchestra - Peter And The Wolf

Catalogue Code: 782052

Barcode: 5050457820527

Release Date: 22 Aug 2011

It is not difficult to find reasons for the phenomenal success which Peter and the Wolf has achieved since its first performance in Moscow in 1936, for this work - like the bran-tub at the party - contains something for everybody. It has catchy tunes in plenty; it has gaiety; simplicity of construction; and it has its harmonic astringencies for those who, so to speak, prefer acid-drops to treacle toffee. And over-riding the musical structure itself is the cheerful commentary of the narrator, which can be enjoyed for its own sake by all those with any sense of fun or fantasy. Peter and the Wolf, in fact, has supplied the long-felt need for an orchestral composition which would hold the interest of those persons (young or old) whose knowledge of music might at best be slight and who might have some difficulty in finding their way through the maze of an extended programmatic piece presented in wholly musical terms. The complete work constitutes, perhaps, the only really successful example of a combination of speech and music, so adroitly is the balance held between these two normally opposed media. As for the idea of allocating to each character in the story a kind of musical visiting-card, this device, of course, has been used by other composers, but one doubts whether it has ever been more aptly and happily employed than here. After the opulence of some of Prokofiev's other orchestral works it is rather surprising to find how comparatively lightly scored is the present composition. Single woodwind, trumpet, and trombone only are used, plus three horns, strings, and percussion. This limitation of forces has the advantage of making the timbres of the various instruments more easily definable, and it is to be conjectured that many listeners to Peter and the Wolf gain from it a clearer knowledge of orchestral 'colour' than they might acquire from hearing half a dozen lengthy symphonies. The story itself is quite straightforward. It is just the sort of thing to delight young people, for any child of spirit can safely be trusted to identify himself with the role of the fearless and resourceful Peter, and thus in imagination to participate in the adventure which befalls our youthful hero. The music progresses so clearly in its delineation of the incidents described that there is little to be added here to the spoken commentary. In ths short prelude, before the fairytale actually begins, the visiting-cards of the various characters are, as it were, placed on the table for our approval or - in the case of the Wolf - disapproval. One's choice of a favourite will depend upon individual taste, though perhaps the Cat is given the most singable and strongly individual melody; whilst the Wolf is a suitably menacing portent of Duck's doom. The beginning of the story is occupied musically with presenting in full the themes allotted to each member of the cast. One may note that after Peter's disregard of Grandfather's warning there are two extra introductory bars before the return of his tune in the string quartet, which somehow manage to suggest the jaunty bravado of the young rip defying his aged grandparent. Shortly after the Wolf's appearance on the scene the Cat's melody is cleverly extended to describe Puss's ascent to a safe place in the tree. (With commendable feeling for the subtleties of musical terminology, this section of the score is marked to be played Nervoso!) Later, Peter's efforts with the rope are indicated by fragments of his theme hesitantly played in the minor key; whilst the Wolf's snappings are given orchestral bite by the addition to the scoring of the incisive tone of the side-drum. The lowering of the lasso is obvious in the muted strings passage; and appropriate bustle in the orchestra conveys the capture and struggles of the Wolf, after which a new visiting-card is displayed for the first time - that of the Hunters. This is a grotesque, angular tune, given out in unison by the four wood

1. Peter And The Wolf, Op. 67: Part I
2. Peter And The Wolf, Op. 67: Conclusion