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The great composer Sergei Prokofiev was Russian to his fingertips (and they were the fingertips of a virtuoso pianist, by the way), but he spent many years outside of his homeland, living in Paris and touring the world, including several visits to the United States. After he returned to Russia permanently in the mid-1930s, he composed many of his most popular works, including Peter and the Wolf in 1936.

Prokofiev subtitled this piece “An Orchestral Fairy Tale for Children,” but he really should have added “and for grownups, too,” for this remarkable composition is appealing to people of all ages. What fun it is to follow the story as the narrator tells it, and to recognize that each character is represented by an instrument or instruments of the orchestra: the bird by a flute, the duck by an oboe, the cat by a clarinet, the grandfather by a bassoon, the wolf by three horns, Peter by the strings, the shooting of the hunters by the timpani and bass drum.

—Orrin Howard