This programme is made up of two poetic and educational masterpieces: Britten’s The Young Person’s Guide to the Orchestra and Prokofiev’s masterful Peter and the Wolf, both used to introduce children to instrumental timbres.
The charming Young Person’s Guide to the Orchestra, composed by Britten in 1946, is a series of variations on a theme by Purcell, each associated with one instrument group or solo instrument, until they all come together in the final fugue. The English composer was preceded in this vein by Prokofiev and his illustrious Peter and the Wolf (1936). Prokofiev was greatly interested in education and transmission to younger generations, and the previous year, had composed twelve easy piano pieces entitled Music for Children. For Peter and the Wolf, he used the story of a Russian folk tale to personify the instruments in the orchestra. The strings, in all their Mozartian grace, represent the young hero; the duck is played by the oboe, the bird by the flute, the cat by the clarinet, and the wolf… by the French horns.