The Soldier’s Tale

The nomad life of Igor Stravinsky, spanned between Eastern and Western Europe, ended at the outbreak of the World War I, with his settling in Switzerland. Stravinsky was far from home, cut off from his family’s estate in Russia. His musical editor Edition Russe de Musique did no more send any money to him since its headquarters were located on the enemy’s territory in Berlin. The Ballet Russes group performed his musical-scene works very rarely. He could not count on the concert/orchestra performances of his works any more. All these facts caused his bad financial situation in the wartime period. In 1915, he met the French novelist C. F. Ramuz who started to translate the texts of his compositions into French. It was the beginning of their close collaboration. Reproductions of musical works were rather limited in the wartime, especially those musical-scene works which depended on the considerable finances. Stravinsky and Ramuz were aware of those facts. While planning a new mutual project, they had in mind a work which production would be adjusted to the time and circumstances – it would not require a theatre and a big orchestra with numerous singers and actors. An idea of establishing a travelling musical theatre and/or producing a musical-scene performance that could be staged in any kind of a hall or even outdoors occurred. Ramuz, who was a novelist and not a dramatist, proposed a text of a narrative character. Stravinsky should then have written a musical score to the text – the musical part was meant to be independent from the spoken part, and thus suitable for the concert performance as well. An influence of the Russian theatre director Vsevolod Meyerhold could be noticed in such theatrical concept. Meyerhold rejected the idea of the classical theatre of the 19th century in favour of the open-air theatre. The symbolization techniques were not only part of the new concept of the theatre, but also part of the new instruments such as objectification made in the form and by means of the spoken commentaries. A story for the new work was taken from a collection of Alexander Afanasiev’s tales Stravinsky had brought from Russia. A theme deals with a reign of Nikolai I and the time of the Russian-Turkish wars. Although the theme of the tales was fairy and fictitious, it met the spirit of the wartime.

The story:

The music and story begin with a tired and discouraged young soldier, returning home on a leave from a war. He encounters the Devil, who manages to buy the soldier’s fiddle (his soul) in exchange for a magic book that can make him rich. The soldier does not realize at first what he has done. He becomes depressed, then excited about all the money but soon realizes how empty it all is. Fortunately, surprises await the audience as the soldier actually manages to beat the Devil and take back his fiddle.

The Soldier’s Tale was written and first performed in 1915 in the Theatre Municipal de Lausanne. The work was dedicated to Werner Reinhart who had sponsored the performance and enabled a few repetitions.

After the outbreak of the October Revolution in 1917, Stravinsky ultimately became a Russian exile. The Soldier’s Story can metaphorically be understood as a Stravinsky’s farewell, parting from the inaccessible homeland. The fairy-tale originates in the Russian tradition, however Ramuz adapted it so that its meaning can be located in a wider historical and geographical context. The Stravinsky’s musical language in The Soldier’s story parts the Russian musical tradition and the Russian school of Rimsky-Korsakov. The musical-scene work of art, composed of the narration, play and dance, is performed by the chamber orchestra of 7 instrumentalists, 3 actors and a dancer. The musical score contains American ragtime, Argentinian tango, Wiener waltz , Spanish pasodobile and German protestant choral. All the mentioned features “internationalize” the original Russian story. A heterogeneous musical piece connects “disharmonious” elements into a new musical language by means of which Stravinsky ultimately breaks with the Russian school that educated him. The influence of jazz – jazz was in fact not heard by Stravinsky by that time, he only saw some notices on jazz – presented to the composer a completely new musical sonority.

In 1919, Stravinsky arranged The Soldier’s Story for the violin, clarinet and piano. Werner Reinhart, the sponsor of the work’s performance, was a big music fan. He played the clarinet, and the arrangement of the mentioned work was made specially for him. The arrangement consists of 5 movements of the original version: The Royal March, The Soldier’s Fiddle, The Small Concert, Three Dances, and The Devil’s Dance.

Today’s recording represents an interesting combination of “The Story” from 1918, and “The Story” from 1919. The sequence and the volume, together with the narrative parts, are taken completely as foreseen by the original musical-scene version. Instead of the expected ensemble of 7 instrumentalists, the “Story” hereby is performed by the piano trio (the piano, the violin and the clarinet), accompanied by the percussion instruments, while the spoken text is entrusted to one actor. The Slovene composer Jaka Pucihar has arranged the movements that were omitted in the “trio” version by Stravinsky in 1919.

Although the recording represents one of the numerous performances of The Soldier’s Story, it, in its “new clothes”, offers a new and (again) original experience of the already known.

 

 

Actor, Bojan MAROŠEVIČ

finished his studies at Academy for theatre, radio, film and television in Ljubljana. His musical knowledge makes him possibe to appear also on a music stage. He performed with Symphony Orchestra of the Slovene Philharmonic Society, Symphony Orchestra of the Maribor Philharmonic Society, Carmina Slovenica, Consortium musicum, International competition for opera singers ˝Ondina Otta˝, Music September- Maribor and jazz project Music of the Words. He is member of the National Theatre SNG Maribor and professor at People University Maribor.

 

Percussion, Dmitrij AVERJANOV

was born in Donjetsk (Ukraine). He studied at the Kijev Conservatorie with Prof. Blinov. With the Kiev Percussion Ensemble he won a first prize at the Ukraine Chamber Ensembels Competition. As a member of various ensembles and orchestras from Kiev he has performed throughout Europe and Far East.  From 1999 he has been a member of the orchestra of Opera SNG Maribor, Maribor Philharmonic and Percussion Ensemble ˝Stick Control˝.

 

Composer, Jaka PUCIHAR (1976)

was born in Ljubljana in a musical family. Having finished the Lower Music School in Vrhnika he continued his education at the Middle Music and Ballet School in Ljubljana which he ended successfully at the department of music theory (he also ended the study of jazz-piano in the class of Prof. Veljko Glodić). He studied the composition and music theory at the Ljubljana Music Academy with Prof. Alojz Srebotnjak. He received the Students' Prešeren Prize for a symphonic work Concert for percussion and orchestra. He is Assistant at the Music Academy in Ljubljana where he lectures Harmony and Improvisation. He also took his Master's degree at the department of composition and music theory where he is now finishing his Doctoral degree. He is a member of the Society of Slovenian composers. His works have been performed throughout Slovenia, in Austria, Italy, Germany, France, Israel, Norway and USA. In 2002 he was accepted to Euroring Arrangers Workshop in Oslo (Norway), where he was co-operating with Norwegian Radio Orchestra directed by John Clayton. They performed and recorded his symphonic work ˝This is it˝. He had also the  symphonic performance of the work ˝Audiatur˝ written for the Slovenian Radio Symphony Orchestra. His works have been played and also recorded by numerous renowned ensembles. Besides his creative work, his activity in the reproduction field is worth mentioning: co-operation with some outstanding artists, with the Slovenian Radio Symphony Orchestra, the Chamber Orchestra Vrhnika, the Wind Orchestra of Slovenian Army and the Slovenian Radio Big Band where, in the season 2000, he functioned as a producer.