Thursday, September 22, 2011

"Peter and the Wolf" - My Encounter With the Composer's Piano Reduction...

On March 2nd of 2012, I will be playing Prokofiev's "Peter and the Wolf."
This statement may sound rather strange to those of you who know this composition as it is normally performed; that is, with narrator and orchestra. Of course, the entire world is familiar with this particular incarnation.
Well, Prokofiev gave birth to this wonderful work in 1936, getting it down on paper in four days. By the way, the story line is Prokofiev's own, not a Russian fable of antiquity, as some think it is.
However, he wrote it initially as a piano solo, then transferred it into the orchestral version we all know so well.
Now this pianistic reduction is rarely performed, primarily due, very simply, to the genius of Prokofiev's giving a particular instrument a character assignment, such as Peter's character being represented by the violin, or the duck's image done by the oboe, or the cat given us by the clarinet, etc. - well, therein lies the reason that the composer chose the orchestra, simplifying the singularity of each character.
My problem in doing the piano reduction publicly is lurid - how can the piano be the violins, or the oboe, or the clarinet? How can I separate one character from another, knowing that the piano sound is the only sound I can produce on the piano?
Of course, therein lies the reason that one never hears "Peter and the Wolf" as Prokofiev originally wrote it.
My only recourse is to heighten the nature of the character I play through the interpretive process; for example, to make Peter more of a young boy by inculcating shards of occasional mischief and innocent jocularity as he strides through the forest - or to picture the duck as a bird who cannot fly, resulting in some depression and frustration that needn't be attempted in the orchestral version - or to present the cat as a combination of Machiavelli and downright sneakiness.
And so the only way to create any hope of success in my playing "Peter" on the piano is to give the word Hubris a real opportunity to come forward, seeing that my dimensions of character representation are suppressed by way of the limitations of my instrument.
Wish me luck!

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