Peter and the Wolf

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1947 coloring book cover

Peter and the Wolf (Russian: Петя и волк, Petya i volk), Op. 67, is a composition written by Sergei Prokofiev in 1936 in the USSR. It is a children's story (with both music and text by Prokofiev), spoken by a narrator accompanied by the orchestra.


In 1936 Sergei Prokofiev was commissioned by Natalya Sats and the Central Children's Theatre in Moscow to write a new musical symphony for children. The intent was to cultivate "musical tastes in children from the first years of school".[1] Intrigued by the invitation, Prokofiev completed Peter and the Wolf in just four days.[2] The debut on 2 May 1936 was, in the composer's words, inauspicious at best: "...[attendance] was poor and failed to attract much attention".[3]


Peter and the Wolf is scored for the following orchestra:

Each character in the story has a particular instrument and a musical theme:

The duration of the work is approximately 25 minutes.


Peter, a Young Pioneer,[4][5] lives at his grandfather's home in a forest clearing. One day, Peter goes out into the clearing, leaving the garden gate open, and the duck that lives in the yard takes the opportunity to go swimming in a pond nearby. The duck starts arguing with a little bird ("What kind of bird are you if you can't fly?" – "What kind of bird are you if you can't swim?"). Peter's pet cat stalks them quietly, and the bird—warned by Peter—flies to safety in a tall tree while the duck swims to safety in the middle of the pond.

Peter's grandfather scolds Peter for being outside in the meadow alone ("Suppose a wolf came out of the forest?"), and, when Peter defies him, saying that "Boys like me are not afraid of wolves", his grandfather takes him back into the house and locks the gate. Soon afterwards "a big, grey wolf" does indeed come out of the forest. The cat quickly climbs into a tree, but the duck, who has excitedly jumped out of the pond, is chased, overtaken and swallowed by the wolf.

Peter fetches a rope and climbs over the garden wall into the tree. He asks the bird to fly around the wolf's head to distract it, while he lowers a noose and catches the wolf by its tail. The wolf struggles to get free, but Peter ties the rope to the tree and the noose only gets tighter.

Some hunters, who have been tracking the wolf, come out of the forest ready to shoot, but Peter gets them to help him take the wolf to a zoo in a victory parade (the piece was first performed for an audience of Young Pioneers during May Day celebrations) that includes himself, the bird, the hunters leading the wolf, the cat and grumpy grumbling Grandfather ("What if Peter hadn't caught the wolf? What then?")

In the story's ending, the listener is told that "if you listen very carefully, you'd hear the duck quacking inside the wolf's belly, because the wolf in his hurry had swallowed her alive."


2000David Attenboroughfor BBC Music Magazine; a free CD came with the June 2000 issue
1971Richard BakerNew Philharmonia OrchestraRaymond LeppardEMI
1960Leonard BernsteinNew York PhilharmonicLeonard BernsteinColumbia RecordsThe popularity of the group's televised Young People's Concerts made this an auspicious release
1975David BowiePhiladelphia OrchestraEugene OrmandyRCA Victor
1984William F. Buckley, Jr.Orchestra of Radio/TV LuxembourgLeopold HagerProarte Digital Records
1960Captain KangarooStadium Symphony Orchestra of New YorkLeopold StokowskiEverest Records SDBR-3043
1979Carol ChanningCincinnati Pops OrchestraErich KunzelCaedmon Records TC-1623
1965Sean ConneryRoyal Philharmonic OrchestraAntal DorátiDecca Phase 4
1997Dame Edna EverageMelbourne Symphony OrchestraJohn LanchberyNaxos Records
1973Mia FarrowLondon Symphony OrchestraAndré PrevinEMI ASD 2935
1959José FerrerVienna State Opera OrchestraSir Eugene GoossensKapp RecordsNarrated in Spanish and English
1959Michael FlandersPhilharmonia OrchestraEfrem KurtzEMI Records
1974Will GeerEnglish Chamber OrchestraJohannes SomaryVanguard Records VSO-30033
1989Sir John GielgudOrchestra of the Academy of LondonRichard StampVirgin ClassicsSir John's royalties for this recording were donated to The League of Friends of Charity Heritage, a facility for children handicapped physically
1996Sir John GielgudRoyal Philharmonic OrchestraAndrea LicataIntersound Recordings
1997Anthony DowellRoss MacGibbon, director (video)Film of a ballet performance, starring David Johnson, Layla Harrison, Karan Lingham[6]
1975Hermione GingoldVienna Philharmonic OrchestraKarl BöhmDeutsche Grammophon
1955Arthur GodfreyAndre Kostelanetz's OrchestraAndre KostelanetzColumbia Recordsmono recording; has never been issued on CD
1965Lorne GreeneLondon Symphony OrchestraSir Malcolm SargentRCA
1988Sir Alec GuinnessBoston Pops OrchestraArthur FiedlerBMG
1939Richard HaleBoston Symphony OrchestraSerge KoussevitzkyRCA VictorThe first American version, issued in an album of three 78 rpm discs
1953Richard HaleBoston Pops OrchestraArthur FiedlerRCA Victor
1994Melissa Joan HartBoston Symphony OrchestraSeiji OzawaSony ClassicalHart was in her "Clarissa" persona from the Nickelodeon television series Clarissa Explains It All
1987Paul HoganOrchestre de ParisIgor MarkevitchEMIIt retained the traditional plot but transferred the locale to the Australian Outback. This recording was withdrawn soon after its release because of unflattering portrayals of Australia's aboriginal people and is now considered "out of print".
1946Sterling HollowayDisneyoriginally made for the 1946 film Make Mine Music
1957Boris KarloffVienna State Opera OrchestraMario RossiVanguard Records
1996Ben KingsleyLondon Symphony OrchestraSir Charles MackerrasCala Records
1989Christopher LeeEnglish String OrchestraSir Yehudi MenuhinNimbus Records
1960Beatrice LillieLondon Symphony OrchestraSkitch HendersonDecca Records
1984Dudley Moore / Terry WoganBoston Pops OrchestraJohn WilliamsPhilipsThe American release (412 559–2) was narrated by Dudley Moore, while the UK release (412 556–2) featured Terry Wogan as narrator
1960sGarry MoorePhilharmonic Symphony Orchestra of LondonArtur RodzińskiWhitehall WHS20040.[7]The reverse side of this 12-inch LP record also features The Carnival of the Animals by Saint-Saëns with Garry Moore (narrator), Josef and Grete Dichler (duopianists) and the Vienna State Opera Orchestra conducted by Hermann Scherchen.
1986Itzhak PerlmanIsrael Philharmonic OrchestraZubin MehtaEMI
1991Oleg and Gabriel ProkofievNew London OrchestraRonald CorpHyperion RecordsThe narrators were the son and grandson of the composer
1972George RaftLondon Festival OrchestraStanley BlackLondon SPC-21084In this version, the story is reformulated as a gangster tale in the style of the Hollywood films that Raft had once acted in.
1941Basil RathboneAll-American OrchestraLeopold Stokowskirestored by Bob Varney[8]
1970Sir Ralph RichardsonLondon Symphony OrchestraSir Malcolm SargentDecca RecordsVolume 5 of The World of the Great Classics series. This version is praised in various editions of The Stereo Record Guide as the finest recording and narration of the work ever made.
1977Cyril RitchardPhiladelphia OrchestraEugene OrmandyColumbia Records ML 5183
1980Tom SeaverCincinnati Pops OrchestraErich KunzelMMG
1994Patrick StewartOrchestra of the Opéra National de LyonKent NaganoErato
1994StingChamber Orchestra of EuropeClaudio AbbadoDeutsche GrammophonThis was used as the soundtrack to the television special Peter and the Wolf: A Prokofiev Fantasy
2001Sharon StoneOrchestra of St. Luke'sJames LevineDeutsche Grammophonas part of A Classic Tale: Music for Our Children (289 471 171–2, 2001)
2012Bramwell ToveyVancouver Symphony OrchestraBramwell ToveyVideo on YouTube
1956Peter UstinovPhilharmonia OrchestraHerbert von KarajanAngel Records
1989Peter UstinovPhilharmonia OrchestraPhilip EllisCirrus Classics CBS CD 105
1989Jonathan WintersPhilharmonia OrchestraEfrem KurtzAngel/EMIWinters also narrated the Saint-Saëns/Ogden Nash The Carnival of the Animals
2008Yadu (aka Dr. Konrad Czynski)London Philharmonic OrchestraStephen SimonMaestro ClassicsBonnie Ward Simon, elucidator, with additional tracks including Russian folk music with the Trio Voronezh, Prokofiev's life, and a music lesson by Maestro Simon. Part of Stories in Music series
1987Lina Prokofiev (Sergei Prokofiev's widow)Royal Scottish National OrchestraNeeme JärviChandos Records

Adaptations of the work[edit]

Walt Disney, 1946[edit]

Disney's 1946 animated short.

Walt Disney produced an animated version of the work in 1946, with Sterling Holloway providing the voice of the narrator. It was released theatrically as a segment of Make Mine Music, then re-issued the next year, accompanying a re-issue of Fantasia (as a short subject before the film), then separately on home video in the 1990s.[9] This version makes several changes to the original story, for example:

In Belle's Tales of Friendship, The Disney version of Peter and the Wolf is featured and narrated by Belle instead of Sterling Holloway.

This version of Peter and the Wolf was featured in Disney's House of Mouse, and characters from it appeared in Who Framed Roger Rabbit, and an audio recording of this version with expanded narration by Sterling Holloway was released on Disneyland Records (DQ-1242). In 1957, for one of his television programs, Disney recalled how Prokofiev himself visited the Disney studio, eventually inspiring the making of this animated version. Disney used pianist Ingolf Dahl, who resembled Prokofiev, to re-create how the composer sat at a piano and played the themes from the score.[10][11]

Russia, 1958[edit]

The Russian animation studio Soyuzmultfilm produced a version of the work in 1958. It is puppet stop motion animation, directed by Anatoly Karanovich and narrated by I. Medvedyeva. This version makes the following changes to the story:

This version has not been published much outside of the ex-USSR.

British–Polish co-production, 2006[edit]

In 2006, Suzie Templeton and Hugh Welchman directed and produced respectively, a stop-motion animated adaptation, Peter and the Wolf. It is unusual in its lack of any dialogue or narration, the story being told only in images and sound and interrupted by sustained periods of silence. The soundtrack is performed by the Philharmonia Orchestra, and the film received its premiere with a live accompaniment in the Royal Albert Hall.[12] The film won the Annecy Cristal and the Audience Award at the 2007 Annecy International Animated Film Festival,[13] and won the 2008 Academy Award for Best Animated Short Film.[14] This version makes some changes to the original Prokofiev story; for example:


Performance by Ballet Rambert at a factory in England, 1943
2007 Toronto, Canada production
Gethin Jones narrating Peter and the Wolf at the Guardian Hay Festival, 2008

In copyright law[edit]

In 2012, the US Supreme Court's decision in Golan v. Holder restored copyright protection in the United States to numerous foreign works that had entered the public domain. Peter and the Wolf was frequently cited by the parties and amici, as well as by the Court's opinion and by the press, as an example of a well-known work that would be removed from the public domain by the decision.[41]


  1. ^ Peter & The Wolf, by Gavin Friday[unreliable source?]
  2. ^ Programme Notes: "Prokofiev (1891–1953) – Peter and the Wolf. Retrieved on 1 July 2011.
  3. ^ Prokofiev, Sergei (2000) [1960]. S. Shlifstein. ed. Autobiography, Articles, Reminiscences. Rose Prokofieva (translator). The Minerva Group, Inc. p. 89. ISBN 0-89875-149-7.
  4. ^ "Snaring a fresh audience using a cautionary tale" by Elissa Blake, The Sydney Morning Herald, 23 August 2013
  5. ^ Morrison, Simon (2008). The People's Artist : Prokofiev's Soviet Years. Oxford University Press. p. 46. ISBN 9780199720514. 
  6. ^ a b Peter and the Wolf (TV 1997) at the Internet Movie Database
  7. ^ Review by T.H., Gramophone, June 1961, p. 31
  8. ^ audio files
  9. ^ The Big Cartoon Database. (20 April 1946). Retrieved on 1 July 2011.
  10. ^ Peter and the Wolf, 1957 Disney TV introduction
  11. ^ Anthony Linick. The Lives of Ingolf Dahl. Author House 2008, P 294
  12. ^ Breakthru Films
  13. ^ Annecy 2008 Festival, 2007 Award Winning Films. Retrieved on 1 July 2011.
  14. ^ "Oscars 2008: Winners". 25 February 2008. Retrieved 25 February 2008. 
  15. ^ scribd
  16. ^ Art Carney Meets Peter and the Wolf (TV 1958) at the Internet Movie Database
  17. ^ The New York Sun. Retrieved on 1 July 2011.
  18. ^ The Geoff Boxell Home Page. Retrieved on 1 July 2011.
  19. ^ Artist Direct
  20. ^
  21. ^ Justin Locke Productions. Retrieved on 1 July 2011.
  22. ^ Banes, Sally. Terpsichore in Sneakers: Post-Modern Dance at Google Books, p. xxx, Wesleyan University Press, 1987, ISBN 978-0-8195-6160-2
  23. ^ Wendy Carlos' official website. Retrieved on 1 July 2011.
  24. ^ Tiny Toon Adventures episode guide. Retrieved on 1 July 2011.
  25. ^ Peter Schickele official website. (1 May 2011). Retrieved on 1 July 2011.
  26. ^ Peter and the Wolf (1996) (TV)
  27. ^ The Boston Phoenix[dead link]
  28. ^ Public Radio Musicsource. Retrieved on 1 July 2011.
  29. ^ Elmo's Musical Adventure at Muppet Wiki
  30. ^ Russian National Orchestra. (21 October 2003). Retrieved on 1 July 2011.
  31. ^ "RNO Russian National Orchestra". February 2004. Retrieved 24 March 2011. 
  32. ^ Track list for Full Circle
  33. ^ Adaptation for Theatre organ by Jelani Eddington
  34. ^ Neil Tobin, Necromancer. Retrieved on 1 July 2011.
  35. ^
  36. ^ Petr & The Wulf, tracklist (11 December 2010)
  37. ^ Petr & The Wulf, Alternative Tentacles
  38. ^ ITV Euro 2012 on YouTube
  39. ^
  40. ^ Peter and the Wolf (2012) at the Internet Movie Database
  41. ^ Ginsburg, Ruth. "Associate Justice". Majority Opinion. Supreme Court of United States. Retrieved 22 January 2012. 

External links[edit]