STRAVINSKY: Histoire du Soldat Suite / Renard (Stravinsky, Vol. 7) (Naxos: 8.557505)
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Igor Stravinsky (1882-1971)
Pastorale • Histoire du Soldat Suite • Three Pieces for Clarinet
Pribaoutki • Berceuses du chat • Renard
Two Balmont Songs • Three Japanese Lyrics
Composed in 1908 as a vocalize for soprano and piano, the Pastorale was first sung by Natasha Rimsky-Korsakov, the composer's daughter, with Stravinsky at the keyboard. In the 1920s he arranged the vocal for violin, thereby extending the range an octave higher and permitting him to double the length of the piece. In 1924 he transcribed the piano part for a quartet of oboe, clarinet, English horn, and bassoon, the version recorded here. It is one of Stravinsky's most popular pieces, as well as his own favorite among his pre-Firebird creations.
The ten pieces of incidental music for Stravinsky's and C. F. Ramuz's play The Soldier's Tale are: The Soldier's March; Music to Scene I; Music to Scene II (Pastorale); Royal March (Pasadoble); Little Concert; Three Dances: Tango, Waltz, Ragtime (played without pause); The Devil's Dance; Petit Chorale, Grande Chorale, and Triumphal March of the Devil.
In The Soldier's Tale, Stravinsky's "jazz" Faust, the Devil is identified with the percussion, the Soldier with the violin. The last pages of the score portray the victory of the former over the latter quite literally as the wind instruments and double bass gradually drop out and, after a few final splutters, the violin as well, leaving the percussion to conclude the drama alone. The Devil's motive at the beginning of this march to Hell, a note repeated on four beats followed by an ascending five-note scale in doubly fast note values, is first introduced near the end of the "Royal March" (violin, clarinet), then repeated in the "Little Concert" (trombone), and made the principal theme of "The Devil's Dance." But the interweaving of motives throughout The Soldier's Tale is a large subject, in, for example, the recurrence in the "Little Concert" of thematic material from the "Soldier's March" and "Music to Scene I"; a motive from "Music to Scene I" in the "Tango"; and of the two-note figure in the bass in "Music to Scene I" at the end of "Music to Scene II" (bassoon).
The present performance restores the leather-headed mallet (mailloche), and a cane stick with head of handspun felt (capoc) for the bass drum. Both of these mallets, specified in the manuscript score, have become obsolete.
The Three Pieces for Clarinet, respectively dated 19 October, 24 October, and 15 November 1918, were composed for Werner Reinhart, an industrialist, a patron of both Stravinsky and Schoenberg, and an amateur clarinettist who had sponsored the first staged production of Histoire du Soldat in Lausanne in 1918. Reinhart founded a music library of Stravinskyana at his home in Wintherthur, Switzerland, which is world-renowned for its splendid gardens.
The first piece is confined to the chalumeau register of the instrument, its highest note being the F sharp above middle C. The second piece dispenses with bar lines and divides into three parts, a fast, high-range first section, ending with a fermata, a low-range middle section, distinguished by hiccoughing appoggiaturas, and a shorter section developing the fast music of the beginning. The first and third sections are rhythmically intricate in that the three notes of the triplet rhythm are succeeded by two notes equal to two of the three, then by quarters equal to six of the triplet notes, then by groups of seven and eight notes, each group equal to a quarter (crotchet). The jazz-style third piece recalls the "Ragtime" in Histoire du Soldat. The present performance follows the manuscript in concluding with a crescendo, rather than the diminuendo of the published score.
Stravinsky wrote his miniature clarinet piece, Pour Picasso, on an Italian telegram form while the two artists were in Rome together in April 1917. The manuscript suggests that the composer was alcoholically elevated at the time, since the lines of the staff weave uncharacteristically, since "Pablo" becomes "Paolo", and since the Italian for April is misspelled ("Apprile"). Moreover, the three notes before the last one were originally placed a major second too low (F–G–F), and the composer, recognising his mistake, broadened them to straddle the lines above, writing over them "Sol, La, Sol" for good measure. The music betrays no sign of inebriation, however, and the Spanish character of the embellished six-pitch melody is established in only 23 notes. Below the music is the legend: