North Dakota Musuem of Art and Myra Presents: Sunday Concerts in the Galleries
L'Histoire du Soldat (The Soldier's Tale)
February 23, 2020 | 2:00 pm | North Dakota Museum of Art
Composed by Igor Stravinsky in 1918 with libertto by C.F. Ramuz. Produced by Cody Hunter of Mayville State University.
Performed by music faculties from Mayville State University, University of North Dakota, North Dakota State University, and Concordia College.
L’Histoire du Soldat (The Soldier’s Tale) is a theatrical work to be read, played, and danced by three actors and one or several dancers, accompanied by a septet of instruments.
Stravinsky’s greatest work for narrator and orchestra, L’Histoire tells the story of a soldier on leave, heading home to see his family. On the way, the soldier runs into another traveler who wishes to purchase his fiddle in exchange for monetary gain. Shortly after the transaction, the soldier realizes that it was the Devil to whom he had sold his fiddle. Fortune, sorrow, reflection, and defeat follow the protagonist through the rest of the tale, with Stravinsky’s unique, angular, and American jazz–influenced music perfectly blended throughout.
Since its premier, L’Histoire has become one of the most significant pieces of chamber music composed in the twentieth century. Scored for violin, clarinet, trumpet, trombone, bassoon, double bass, percussion, and actors, Stravinsky masterfully utilizes each instrument’s unique timbre to create unforgettable music with a timeless message: “No one can have it all.”
Stravinsky hit on hard times when he retreated to Switzerland during WW I. He tried to write small scale, income-producing pieces in hopes that someone might perform them. The result is thoroughly convincing theater, like a radio drama with music. The score for L’histoire is a series of short interludes marches — a tango, jazzy riffs, funeral and wedding music, etc. featuring the soldier’s old violin — that prefigure Stravinsky’s life-long fondness for writing pieces lasting under five minutes. None are as delightful as this score born of empty pockets.
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