Peter and the Wolf History Curriculum Guide
The Russian Revolution of 1917 had a significant effect on everyone including artists and musicians. Prokofiev was greatly concerned with the political unrest in Russia and the effect it would have on his career. He was also interested in seeking professional opportunities outside his native country, and in 1918, traveled to the United States. He remained abroad for 20 years, accepting commissions from ballet and opera companies (first in the US and then in Europe) and also performing concerts in several other countries.
• After the revolution, Joseph Stalin took control of Russia beginning in the late 1920's and remained in power until his death in 1953. During his rule, everything was controlled by the state including the creation of art and music. In the 1930s the Soviet government created a “Composers’ Union” to keep foreign influences out of Soviet music. This union also kept a close watch over composers to make sure their work followed the government's demands-traditional Russian music with Russian themes and elements. No new or different music was allowed, and only composers who followed these rules would have their music endorsed by the government and performed.
• Prokofiev had become somewhat more traditional in his composing over the years. After weighing the decision to either compromise with Russian authorities by sticking with traditional ideas, or be true to some of his more non-traditional musical ideas, did he decide to conform (to some extent) to the Soviet influence. “Peter and the Wolf” certainly fit with the more traditional style, and was written the year Prokofiev returned to his native land in 1936.
• Watch this link of pictures and advertisements from the time of the Russian Revolution. The song, a Russian patriotic march, is sung by the Russian Army Chorus and has an interesting history which you can find here.
• Learn more about Prokofiev at Kids Music Corner
QUESTIONS & ACTIVITIES
• What would it be like as an artist or composer to be forced to follow the government’s rules in order to create? Would you follow their restrictions so that you could stay in your homeland, or move to a place that allowed you freedom to create what you wanted? Discuss.
• The Disney movie Anastasia tells the fictional tale of a girl who is the only surviving member of the Russian royal family after the revolution. (In actuality, no member of the royal family survived.) Rent the movie and watch it with your class or family.
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