Children's Music

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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Children’s Music


music intended for children to listen to and perform. The best children’s music is distinguished by a concrete subject, lively poetic content, picturesque imagery, and simple and clear form.

Works written to be performed by children are adapted to their performing abilities. In vocal works, voice range and the characteristics of singing and diction of children of various ages are taken into consideration, as well as the extent of choral training. In instrumental music, the degree of technical difficulty is taken into account. The scope of the musical works that children are capable of apprehending and that are performed for a children’s audience extends beyond the bounds of children’s music proper. There are children’s folk songs, among them counting songs, round-dance songs, and humorous ditties. Examples of classical children’s music include the songs and instrumental pieces of P. I. Tchaikovsky (a collection of children’s songs and The Children’s Album for the piano) and M. I. Glinka’s The First Polka, as well as the piano pieces of J. S. Bach (Anna Magdalena Bach’s Book), of R. Schumann (Album for Young People, songs, and choral works), of J. Brahms (Children’s Folk Songs), of A. K. Liadov (children’s songs with texts from folk songs), and of B. Bartók (For Children, consisting of four books of piano music).

Works based on subjects drawn from the life of children but performed by professional musicians and not designed specifically for a children’s audience form a separate group of musical compositions. The classical works of this type include P. I. Tchaikovsky’s The Nutcracker, which B. V. Asaf ev called “a brilliant symphony of childhood”; M. P. Mussorgsky’s cycle of art songs Nursery, in which the composer portrayed the inner world of children with great power; R. Schumann’s Scenes From Childhood, consisting of pieces for the piano; and G. Bizet’s orchestral suite Children’s Play. The lullaby, found in many variations in folk music as well as in instrumental, vocal, and operatic works, is closely connected to poetic images of childhood.

Children’s music, particularly songs, has been written by such composers as D. B. Kabalevskii, M. I. Krasev, I. O. Dunaevskii, and R. G. Boiko. Children’s songs have been written in collaboration with the poets S. V. Mikhalkov, A. L. Barto, and O. I. Vysotskaia. Among the major works for children is the symphonic fairy tale Peter and the Wolf by S. S. Prokofiev. Many works by Soviet composers are based on fairy tales, including Krasev’s operas Masha and the Bear and Morozko and L. A. Polovinkin’s opera The Fisherman and His Wife (based on A. S. Pushkin’s tale), as well as the ballets Baby Stork by D. L. Klebanov and Doctor Aibolit by I. V. Morozov (based on K. I. Chukovskii’s story). Many songs and instrumental works by Soviet composers were written for children’s broadcasts, for plays performed in children’s theaters, and for children’s films. In 1965 the Moscow Children’s Musical Theater was founded, the only one of its kind in the world. Music for educational purposes occupies an important place in children’s music, for example, the collections of instrumental pieces by A. F. Gedike, R. M. Glière, E. F. Gnesina, and D. B. Kabalevskii. Among contemporary Western European composers known for their work in children’s music is the German composer C. Orff—the author of the five-volume collection Music for Children (Schulwerk) and the collection (Music for Young People (both in collaboration with G. Kätman).

The development of children’s music is closely associated with the development of children’s musical performing abilities and with the entire system of musical education. The creation and popularization of children’s music in the USSR is facilitated by the Commission for the Aesthetic and Musical Education of Children and Young People of the Union of Composers of the USSR. The Academy of Pedagogical Sciences of the USSR works out questions concerning the musical education of children. The International Society of Musical Education also carries on extensive work in this field.


Asaf’ev, B. Russkaia muzyka o detiakh i dlia detei. Sovetskaia muzyka, 1948, no. 6.
Sats, N. Deti prikhodiat v teatr. Moscow, 1961.
Rzankina, T. Kompozitorydetiam. Leningrad, 1962.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
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