Peter and the Wolf : celebrity narration and the enduring appeal of this tale

Sergei Prokofiev’s Peter and the Wolf has been recorded more often than any other piece of classical music – over 400 times in more than a dozen languages.
The narration has been spoken by everyone from David Bowie to Eleanor Roosevelt, Boris Karloff to Christopher Lee, Bill Clinton to Sting. The orchestras have been conducted by Leonard Bernstein, Leopold Stokowski, André Previn and countless others. It has helped introduce generations of children to the instruments of the orchestra and the concept of telling a story through music. But there have only been four recordings ever issued in the Russian language and none in any of the other Soviet languages.
In Russia, Peter has a completely different reputation.
Peter and the Wolf had its public premiere on 5th May 1936 at the Central Children’s Theatre in Moscow, in front of an audience of ‘Young Pioneers’ dressed in their red ties. Performances were preceded by talks on topics such as civil defence, national unity and the responsibilities of children to the Soviet State. Peter and the Wolf has radically changed its meaning since 1936. It’s a musical work which everyone has heard of and most people know, but which has never been closely examined with the seriousness it deserves.
Christopher Frayling assesses the enduring appeal of this tale. Has it been ghettoised as ‘children’s music’? Why are celebrities queuing up to narrate it? Why does it have such a low reputation in Russia-and why does it have such a high reputation everywhere else?

You can listen to this engaging discussion on the link below. I thoroughly enjoyed it hope you do too…

Sir Christopher Frayling on Peter and the Wolf
Produced by Barney Rowntree and Nick Jones
BBC Radio 4.

About Lucy Northenra

Senior Lecturer in Literature, University of Hertfordshire

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