CANCELLED—”L’Histoire du soldat” (The Soldier’s Tale) and Other Works
Owing to the in-person closure of the UC Davis campus from Jan. 3–7, we have cancelled this concert and will reschedule when able.
Matilda Hofman, conductor and UC Davis lecturer in music
Ann Lavin, clarinet and UC Davis lecturer in
Doug Brown, bassoon
Scott Macomber, trumpet
Bruce Chrisp, trombone and UC Davis lecturer in music
Chris Froh, percussion and UC Davis lecturer in music
Dagenais Smiley, violin and UC Davis lecturer in music
Michael Schwagerus, double bass and UC Davis lecturer in music
Igor Stravinsky: L’Histoire du soldat (The Soldier’s Tale)
The story, even without the usual narration, can be followed through the ingenious musical fabric Stravinsky wrote—almost like a tone poem for a chamber ensemble instead of a symphony orchestra. The impetus for writing music for such a small ensemble—instead of, say, a Firebird-sized orchestra—came from Stravinsky being caught in troubled economic times. After all, it was written in 1918 in the direct aftermath of not only World War I but the Russian Revolution and the world-wide (and deadly) flu pandemic. Stravinsky himself caught the flu the day after it premiered in Switzerland and the tour had to be cancelled.
Here the ensemble violinist is crucial to the story—which is Faustian in nature: the violin-playing Soldier is duped over and over again by the Devil himself. The time signature changes rapidly throughout, which is one of the reasons a conductor is necessary for such a small ensemble. It features carefully-chosen instruments, which represent rather than constitute entire instrument families.
The main character—the soldier—is introduced to the audience as he marches towards his hometown, on leave from the military. The devil sneaks up on the soldier (who is also a violinist) during his journey home, and tricks him by offering a life of wealth in exchange for teaching the devil how to play the fiddle. The soldier accepts, but later realizes he’s been gone for three years and not three days (with the devil). His mother thinks the soldier is dead and the soldier’s wife has remarried. Now in a tormented state, the soldier becomes desperate and wanders aimlessly as the devil continues to trick him. The soldier finds himself in another country where its princess can be won by any suitor who cures her illness. This time the soldier recognizes the devil trickster posing as a virtuoso violinist at the palace. While waiting to see the princess the soldier plays a card game with the devil until the devil falls asleep from heavy drinking. The soldier takes his fiddle back, plays a victorious tune over the unconscious devil, and then heads to the princess’s chamber to play three tunes to which she dances herself back to health. The devil reappears with a warning that the soldier cannot go back to his hometown or else he’ll be possessed. The soldier and the princess forget about the devil’s warning and they visit his hometown. The devil possesses the fiddle and in turn the soldier, becoming the ultimate victor.
a Shinkoskey Noon Concert