Britten: Young Person's Guide; Saint-Saëns: Carnival of the Animals; Prokofiev: Peter & The Wolf

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The French composer Camille Saint-Saëns was prolific and lived a long time, although by the time of his death in 1921 music had changed beyond anything he could have conceived. He was a gifted pianist and, in common with many other well known French composers, found employment and distinction as organist at one of the principal churches in Paris. The popular Carnival of the Animals, described as A Zoological Fantasy, was written in 1886, originally for two pianos and a small chamber orchestra, to celebrate that year's carnival. The composer forbade further performances of this occasional music, except for The Swan, which enjoyed immediate and irresistible popularity.

The Soviet composer Sergey Prokofiev wrote his Peter and the Wolf in 1936 to introduce to children the instruments of the orchestra. He had taken his two sons to see performances at the Moscow Children's Music Theatre and this had suggested to him the possibility of a composition of this kind. The boy Peter, represented by the strings, is playing in the meadow, forbidden territory. A bird, shown by the flute, sings in a tree: a duck, the oboe, swims in the pond, and a cat, the clarinet, comes onto the scene, sending the bird up to a higher branch. Peter's grandfather, the bassoon, warns the boy not to venture out, but meanwhile a wolf, the French horns, comes into the meadow, 
and adventures ensue with spoken narration.

Ten years later, in 1946, the English composer Benjamin Britten was asked to write music for an educational film introducing the instruments of the orchestra. For the purpose he chose a theme by the great 17th century English composer Henry Purcell and wrote a set of variations, each of which shows the characteristics of a particular instrument or group of instruments. The alternative title of the work, Variations and Fugue on a Theme of Purcell, is an exact description. The other title, The Young Person's Guide to the 
Orchestra, makes fun of the titles much favored by writers of moral tales in the 19th century, providing "young persons" with advice on how to regulate every aspect of their lives. At the most exciting part of the concluding fugue, the brass instruments play again the original theme, leading to a grand conclusion. 

Product Description:

  • Release Date: October 30, 1991

  • Catalog Number: 8550499

  • UPC: 730099549929

  • Label: Naxos

  • Period: 20th Century

  • Composer: Benjamin Britten, Camille Saint-Saëns, Sergei Prokofiev

  • Conductor: Ondrej Lenárd

  • Orchestra/Ensemble: Slovak State Symphony Orchestra

  • Performer: Jeremy Nicholas, Marián Lapsansky, Peter Toperczer


  1. Peter and the Wolf, Op. 67

    Composer: Sergei Prokofiev

    Ensemble: Slovak State Symphony Orchestra

    Performer: Jeremy Nicholas (Spoken Vocals)

    Conductor: Ondrej Lenárd

  2. Carnival of the animals

    Composer: Camille Saint-Saëns

    Ensemble: Slovak State Symphony Orchestra

    Performer: Marián Lapsansky (Piano), Peter Toperczer (Piano)

    Conductor: Ondrej Lenárd

  3. Young Person's Guide to the Orchestra, Op. 34

    Composer: Benjamin Britten

    Ensemble: Slovak State Symphony Orchestra

    Conductor: Ondrej Lenárd