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1 Igor Stravinsky (1882-1971) was one of the most exceptional composers of the twentieth century. world of music.

Musically, Stravinsky was innovative for interesting sounds in the He had a desire to make his works available to people of all

backgrounds and living conditions, so he composed a lot of his earlier works so that they did not call for very many performers.1 This was especially true of the work entitled Lhistoire du Soldat, or, The Soldiers Tale. Composed in Switzerland, near the end of the first World War, this piece, written for three actors, a female dancer, and seven instrumentalists, with the libretto by Stravinskys friend and colleague, C. F. Ramuz, tells the story of a soldier who sells his soul to the devil, in return for a book that tells the future. The artistic depth of this work, the music, and the dance are indeed indicative of the creativity that inspired the wide variety of works in Stravinskys vast musical output. To understand his music, it is pertinent to know a little bit about Igor Stravinskys life. Stravinsky was born on June 18, 1882 in Oranienbaum, which is on the Gulf of Finland about 30 miles from St. Petersburg, to father Feodor and mother Anna. He lived with three brothers, Roman, Youry, and Goury. His father, who was a leading singer at the opera in St. Petersburg, was highly responsible for the beginning of Stravinskys musical life.

When young Stravinsky was nine years old, he began to take piano

lessons, learning to read music, and how to improvise. This, Stravinsky said, turned into a pursuit to which I devoted myself, and which for a long time was my favorite occupation.3 He also spent a lot of time looking at scores that his father had in his large library, including works by Wagner and Rimsky-Korsakov. Around the age of sixteen,

K. Marie Stolba, The Development of Western Music: A History, second edition (Madison: WCB Brown & Benchmark, 1994), 638. 2 Francis Routh, Stravinsky, (London: J. M. Dent & Sons Ltd), 1. 3 Igor Stravinsky, An Autobiography (New York: Norton, 1962), 5.

2 Stravinsky frequented the opera productions, often times starring his father. He heard works by several of the great Russian composers of the day; this included The Five: Cui, Mussorgsky, Borodin, Balakirev, and Rimsky-Korsakov.4 But Stravinskys musical curiosity was especially sparked by Tchaikovsky.5 In 1901, Stravinsky matriculated into the University of St. Petersburg, as advised by his parents. Despite the musical career of his father, they both thought it was best that Igor keep up his music, but only as a hobby. So while at the University for four years, he studied law, and legal philosophy, but also spent a lot of his time studying music, including counterpoint, which he took on by himself. At this University, he became close friends with the son of Rimsky-Korsakov. Once, while his friends father was visiting, Stravinsky took the opportunity to tell him of [his] ambition to become a composer, and asked his advice. Rimsky-Korsakov advised to continue his musical studies, but not to go into the Conservatoire, because he would probably not feel very encouraged with such a work load, and would probably be discouraged by his professors for having such a contemporary sound. He also told Stravinsky that he could come to him any other time he needed advice. 6 This was the beginning of Stravinskys composing career. Under RimskyKorsakovs guidance, Stravinsky composed several works, including a Symphony in Eflat major (1907), Le Faune et la bergre (for Voice and Orchestra, 1907), and Fireworks (1908), an orchestral fantasy. Having spent time with Rimsky-Korsakov for orchestration lessons and other tutoring, Stravinsky also spent a lot of time with The Five, which

The Five, or Mighty Handful as critic Vladmir Stasov called them, were a group of composers who were especially active in Russian music in the early twentieth century. Each of them had many new ideas and concepts to offer, but one that they all promoted was Russian nationalism. Stolba, 561, 607. 5 Routh, 3. 6 Stravinsky, 15.

3 brought forth opportunities for growth, and more importantly, the people that could bring his music to the world. One of the more significant works that Stravinsky brought to the world was LHistoire du Soldat, or The Soldiers Tale. The story of this work is based on an old Russian folk tale by Alexander Afanasyev, called The Deserter and the Devil.7 It begins when a soldier named Joseph is traveling home from the army for a 10-day leave. He sits down for a rest and takes out his fiddle, when an old man encounters him. This old man named Nick, who is actually the devil, offers to trade the soldiers fiddle in exchange for a magic book. Seeing the bargain in the trade, Joseph agrees. Because the Devil cannot play this fiddle, he asks the soldier to come to his home with him for three days to teach him how to play. Again, the soldier agrees. In the next scene, the soldier has reached his hometown, but when no one, including his own mother, recognizes him, and he finds out that his fianc has married another man, he realizes that he hasnt been gone for three days, but for three years. The Devil, who is now disguised as a cattle merchant, reminds Joseph of the magic book, and explains to him that it can help him rebuild his life, and, his fortune. Following the Devils advice, the soldier becomes very wealthy, but also becomes thoroughly disillusioned by his wealth.8 The Devil, who is once again in disguise, this time as an old woman, brings out the soldiers fiddle. He recognizes it at once and buys it back. After failing several attempts to play it, he becomes frustrated and throws it away from him.

Stephen Walsh, Stravinsky: A Creative Spring: Russia and France 1882-1934 (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1999), 286. 8 Robert Bridge, LHistorie Du Soldat. (The Soldiers Tale) A Brief Historical Overview. 17 May 1994. http://myhome.sunyocc.edu/~bridger/papers/lhistpaper.htm. Accessed 5 March 2006, 3.

4 In the second part of the drama, Joseph has lost his fortune, and begins to wander. He comes upon a town where the King is offering his daughters hand in marriage to the one who can cure her of her illness. The Devil shows up, disguised as a violinist, with the soldiers fiddle. After a card game, where the Devil loses because he becomes intoxicated and passes out, he is able to retrieve his fiddle once again. Going to the Princesss room, Joseph takes his fiddle and begins to play, causing the princess, who has been asleep on her bed, to rise; she dances a tango, a waltz and a ragtime.9 At the end of the dance, the princess falls into Josephs arms, when the Devil comes in, ironically costumed as a devil. Being well aware that this is the same man who has brought him much misfortune, Joseph plays his fiddle, which seems to be connected to the Devil, causing him to dance in uncoordinated and painful ways. Being rid of the Devil, the princess and soldier wed. When the newlywed couple decides to visit Josephs hometown, a strange sensation comes over him once he is within the boundaries. The Devil, who has the soldiers fiddle once again, now has complete control of Joseph. He follows the Devil off of the stage,10 where the story ends. There is much to be said about the music of The Soldiers Tale. The initial process began after Stravinsky and Charles F. Ramuz met to work on other projects with conductor Ernest Ansermet. Living in Switzerland towards the end of the first World War, both in the need of money, they decided to work on a project of their own. Wanting to have something relatively simple, both for stylistic and monetary reasons, they decided to go with a work that is to be read, played, and danced. Because of this, the libretto and

Ibid, 4. It is said that, because the only sound that is left is the decrescendo of the percussion, Stravinsky meant for this to depict the dissention into Hell. Ibid, 7.

5 the music were written separately, to emphasize the importance and equality each one held in the work. Another idea they kept in mind during the initial stages of the piece, was the desire that it could be performed without the action, as a suite. The instrumentation of The Soldiers Tale, being such a small work, was quite sparse. It included seven instruments, including violin, clarinet in A, cornet, bassoon, trombone, double bass and percussion (which was comprised of snare drums (used with both snare and with the snare turned off), bass drum, cymbals, tambourine, and triangle).11 Because of the limited number of players, Stravinsky said in his

autobiography that, all [would be] playing as soloists. In the music, there are many noteworthy examples for various reasons. One of the main aspects that makes this piece unique is its dedication to rhythm, inspired by the ragtime and jazz emerging at that time. Although Stravinsky had yet to hear any

American jazz or ragtime, he had seen several scores and thus was able to have an idea in his head how it would sound. Enhancing the rhythmic complexity of this piece are many sections in mixed meter. This rhythmic originality starts in the very beginning with The Soldiers March. Especially effective about this section of music is that while the meters are changing, there is still a constant overriding duple rhythm kept in the double bass part, going between the I and V chords; this is meant to depict the soldiers footsteps as he is walking along the path. (Example 1) There are also many examples of

syncopation, which was something that was beginning to arise because of the ragtime and jazz influences as well. (Example 2)


Igor Stravinsky and C. F. Ramuz., Histoire du soldat (The Soldier's Tale) (New York: Edwin F. Kalmus, n. d.).

6 Another technique that Stravinsky incorporated in The Soldiers Tale is the use of a common theme. There are a few different examples of this. One theme is used in each of the dances (Tango, Waltz, and Ragtime), using the theme that Stravinsky used in Ragtime (which he actually composed before The Soldiers Tale). Another theme is used in both The Soldiers March of part II, and in The Little Concert. (Example 3) Along with these techniques is the element of imagery and symbolism, which is probably not surprising, since The Soldiers Tale was written as a story. One such example of this is the Tango, when the instructions in the score say specifically in the music right when the clarinet comes in, that the princess is to begin dancing. The melody of the clarinet is very dance-like, which easily represents the dancing Princess. (Example 4) There is also the instance of the use of the violin and percussion to represent the

Devil. Since the Devil was always using the violin to manipulate and cheat the soldier, it seems very appropriate to have the last section, Triumphal March of the Devil, include many instances when only the violin and percussion play. (Example 5) Listening to this work, one may realize that Stravinsky was also at a time in his composing career when he was experimenting with jazz. Although the rhythms of this work allude more to jazz than the harmonies or melodies,12 an analysis of the during the two chorals, specifically The Grand Choral, shows that he had indeed been considering jazz harmonies. In the very first line, almost every chord is built that would suggest Stravinskys knowledge and application of jazz theory. Included in the harmonies are several chords with added sevenths, and even more with added ninths. (Example 6) These sort of chords are seen throughout the piece.


Bridge, 2.

7 A discussion of The Soldiers Tale would not be complete if the production itself was not included. Originally, it was intended to be a moving showcase, intended to go on a tour of sorts. The stage would be relatively small, but would include all people involved in the work. The narrator, who told the majority of the story, would stand on the left, the main action would happen in the middle, and the orchestra and conductor would be towards the back on the right (Example 7). The first performance of The Soldiers Tale was on September 28, 1918 at the Lausanne Theatre at Lausanne University. The performance went very well, and to Stravinskys liking, and was definitely intended to tour to other villages and cities throughout Switzerland. However, an epidemic of the Spanish influenza broke out. This alone would have kept them from touring, out of fear that they might catch it from someone else, but in fact, Stravinsky himself was one of the people who had come down with it.13 Fortunately for the rest of the world, Stravinskys work lived on, and there have been many performances of the The Soldiers Tale since the early 1900s. A couple of note include the first production in America, which took place in New York for the League of Composers, and a production at the Thater des Champs-Elyses in Paris, in 1946.14 There have also been many adaptations, including translations into German and English (from the original French version). Composer Kurt Vonnegut was asked by Robert Johnson, the director of the New York Philomusica Chamber Ensemble, to provide a completely new accompaniment to Stravinskys music; Johnson had already
13 14

Routh, 21. Minna Lederman, Stage Productions in Stravinsky in the Theatre (New York: Pellegrini & Cudahy, 1949), 183.

8 written a new text that would be more fitting for the current times. His cast includes several similar characters, such as the Major General (narrator), the soldier, the Military Police Sergeant (Devil) and the Red Cross Girl (the dancing princess), along with Two Ordinary Infantry Privates. The first production of this adaptation was in Alice Tully Hall, on May 6, 1993, and there have been several productions since.15 Another modern adaptation is the RO Blechman production that put the work into an animated video. There were also some changes in the story line, again to make it more applicable to a younger generation. Produced in 1984, it was presented on the show Great Performances on PBS, and won an Emmy for Outstanding Individual Achievement, Animated Programming the same year.16 The success of this and other adaptations of The Soldiers Tale give high amounts of praise to the original work. Although, his financial situation and lifestyle towards the end of the first World War were not ideal, these factors had a definite impact on the genesis of one of his most critical works in determining his own style. LHistoire du Soldat, or The Soldiers Tale, to be read, played, and danced, clearly was influenced by the tonalities, harmonies, and, most of all, rhythms of ragtime and jazz, even though he had never heard either one at the time of composing the piece. Clearly, Igor Stravinsky assimilated all the musics of his time to become an innovative pioneer in contemporary music, providing an interesting bridge between the romantic and twentieth century eras of music.

15 16

Kurt Vonnegut, L'histoire du soldat in Paris Review (40, no. 148, Fall 1998), 188. Charles H. Parsons, Stravinsky: The Soldier's Tale in American Record Guide (68, no. 3, May/June 2005): 266.

Example 1 Steady duple beat kept in the double bass while in mixed meter in The Soldiers March

Example 2 Syncopation.


Example 3 Themes in The Soldiers March and The Little Concert.


Example 4 Clarinet theme representing the start of The Princesss Dance.

Example 5 Violin and percussion representing the Devil in Triumphal March of the Devil.


G G D6 C7 A7 G9 F9 C D C9 f#7 e9 C9 A4/3 E

Example 6 Jazz-inspired harmonies in The Grand Choral.

Example 7 Arrangement of the orchestra, in the back of the right side of the stage.