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Sergei Prokofiev

Peter and the Wolf, Op. 67

Narrated by Wilfred Pickles

Igor Markevitch conducting the Philharmonia Orchestra


From the back of the cover.

Serge Prokofieff was considered one of the enfants terribles of music and the only serious rival to Stravinsky's brittleness and strength as shown in "Le Sacre du Printemps". His ballets "Chout" (The Buffoon) and "Pas d'Acier" were notable for their humour and vigour, while his orchestral Suite "Scythe" (Ala et Lolly) proclaimed him a master of rhythm and dynamic force. In this country he became known mainly by his Third Piano Concerto and the Opera "The Love of the Three Oranges". After sojourning in London, Chicago, and Paris he returned to Moscow in 1934 and consented to follow the Party Line. He was instructed to simplify his style and make it easily assimilable by every listener at the first hearing. This he agreed to do, and now he holds a position as the leading Soviet Composer, although he owes none of his pupilage to that regime.

Part of the policy of the Soviet Government, as, indeed, it is that of most governments, is to educate children in the best types of music, and children's concerts are frequently given - as, indeed they have been here and elsewhere for a long time. Prokofieff was ordered to write a work which would introduce the orchestral instruments to the children, not through any arbitrary lecture, but through the means of a specially devised work. "Peter and the Wolf" was the result of this commission and it has spread all round the world.

The performance is introduced by a short talk explaining how each instrument applies to the characters of the work; thus, the Bird is obviously represented by the flute, the Duck by the oboe, the Cat by the clarinet in its low registers, the Grandfather by the bassoon, and the Wolf by the three horns, while Peter himself is pictured by the string quartet in naive and simple music. Finally, the Hunters on the kettledrums and the bass drum.

The narrative continues over the music.

Peter sets out for a walk. A bird speaks to him and they have a friendly little chat. A duck appears, pleased that Peter has left the gate open. The duck proposes to swim in the pond. The bird spots him and asks what he thinks he is. The two argue and evetually the duck jumps into the pond. Peter and the bird walk on, and a cat appears. Peter shouts a warning and the bird flies up a tree. The cat stalks the duck to no avail. Peter's Grandfather scolds Peter for going out into the meadow - "Suppose a wolf came?" he asks. Grandfather is very angry indeed. Peter ignores what Grandfather says, for boys like him are not afraid of wolves. Grandfather, however, will not stand for this nonsense and, taking Peter back into the garden, locks the gate. Sure enough, a big grey wolf does appear, uttering dire threats. The cat jumps into the tree, the duck quacks in panic and by mistake jumps out of the pond. He runs away with the wolf on his heels. He is caught, and is swallowed by the wolf in one gulp.

The bird finds himself on the tree with the cat and edges away from him, while the wolf creeps round and round the tree, with murder in his heart; but he can get a neither the bird nor the cat, for once united in terror.

Peter, a fearless lad, stands at the gate, watching. He tuns to the house and gets a rope. Climbing up the tree he crosses the wall by its branches. He asks the bird to attract the wolf's attention by flying round the beast's head. The wolf grows exasperated, for the bird evades him. Peter makes a lassoo of the rope, and lowering it, catches the wolf by the tail. The wolf struggles in vain, for Peter has tied his end of the rope to the tree and the wolf simply twists it round and round the tree trunk.

At that moment hunters appear out of the wood, hot on the wolf's trail, with their guns ablaze. Peter, however, stops them and asks for help in taking the wolf to the Zoo. To a triumphant march, the party leads the wolf to the Zoo, Peter leading as the captor of the animal, his music this time appearing on the horns. The hunters follow with the wolf on leash, and protesting violently. Grandfather and the cat bring up the rear, the former expostulating because Peter might not have caught the wolf. The little bird chirrups above with joy at the capture, while, mirabile dictu, the duck quacks inside the wolf for he has been swallowed alive and has not been chewed.

With the moral side to this tale we have no concern. The music is often charming and always suitable, especially in the pastoral settings. Of all Prokofieff's Soviet music, this is the work which appears to have taken the strongest hold on the public. From time to time Soviet works are disavowed by the Government. It appears that his work is now accepted only with some reserve.

Norman Demuth

Recording Information

Composer Sergei Prokofiev
Narrator Wilfred Pickles
Orchestra Philharmonia Orchestra
Conductor Igor Markevitch
Date Recorded Circa 1950
Date Transferred 27th April 2016
Date Restored 29th April 2016
Serial Numbers HMV DLP1001
Bandwidth 35Hz to 10kHz
Transfer Stylus 0.7 mil conical
Transfer Cartridge Stanton 500 at 5g
Transfer Turntable Hitachi HT-350 at 33.33RPM
Cutter Compensation EMI LP (70-500-2500)
Click Reduction DeClick, wavelet mode, 10, pitch protection, 2 passes
Low Frequency NR DeNoise LF, mono, 100Hz, -60dB
Limiting Filter 48dB/octave Butterworth at 35Hz, 24dB/octave Butterworth at 10kHz
Additional Eq. None needed

Restoration Notes

During this transfer and restoration, I discovered through experimentation that applying ClickRepair to the flat-level transfer as opposed to the equalised version provided great benefits in terms of better detection of clicks in relation to false detections, as well as far better removal of the low frequency component of clicks and pops, even after equalisation was applied. However, when using this method it is even more important to set the level of detection to a conservatively low level, as any false detections are far more obtrusive than they would be should the click removal be applied after equalisation.

This is the first restoration of a microgroove transfer that I have uploaded to the Vintage Recordings page. It unfortunately features most of the discontents that very early 10" LPs show, such as pre and post echo, partly due to print through on the master tape, limited high frequency response, and significant distortion during loud passages, caused by repeated plays with a low compliance, heavy, and possibly worn early crystal pickup. Listening carefully, it is also apparent that the orchestral parts are possibly taken from a pre-recorded session with the narration dubbed on afterwards, most likely from a transcription disc, as the noise level is noticeably greater during these sections.

Despite these flaws, it is still a very listen-able and charming recording, with Wilfred Pickles' congenial and well timed narration shining through. Due to the raspy nature of Pickles' voice, low sensitivity click detection was essential to prevent any unpleasant artefacts from accompanying the narration. This lower sensitivity resulted in a few hints of impulse noise still remaining during the second side, which had a myriad of visible scratches upon it, in contrast to the first side which appeared to be in excellent condition. As the noise floor is already acceptably low, I have also opted not to use any wide-band noise reduction on this transfer, and also on account of the rapidly changing nature of the noise floor as the orchestral part is faded in and out by the recording engineer.

I couldn't find any precise details as to the recording date of this piece. I have based my estimate of 1950 upon the fact that Prokofiev's date of death (1953) is not listed on the cover along with his date of birth, and also to a 1951 review found on the web. Discs with similar matrix numbers also seem to be recorded around this time. If you know the date of recording, please do contact me and let me know. I would greatly appreciate any further information regarding this recording.

Free Download

As this recording is well over 50 years old, I am able to offer it for download.

Vorbis is used for site downloads as it provides transparency at about a third of the file size compared to MP3. There isn't really much point for using FLAC as the final listening format (all processing is done losslessly, of course) as the quality of the recordings themselves is already rather limited given their age. The general consensus on HydrogenAudio is that Q5 is enough for transparency with modern recordings, so the downloads offered are encoded at a more than ample Q7. Vorbis is by far a superior codec to MP3, as transparency is obtained at almost half the file size.

Copyright Disclaimer

The audio track listed on this page is a digital restoration of an early long playing record in my possession, whose mechanical copyright has expired before the time of this page's publication. No later release is used so any copyright affecting such a release does not apply to any of the sound recordings shown on this page. Claims to the contrary may be vexatious if pursued. Any communication between parties claiming copyright of the material on this website and the author of this site will be published immediately with great derision. The contents of this page must not be copied represented or sold without express permission.

Michael Fearnley 2016