Stravinsky: The Soldier’s Tale

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COMPOSERS: Stravinsky
LABELS: Chandos
WORKS: The Soldier’s Tale
PERFORMER: Aage Haugland (narrator); Members of the Royal Scottish National Orchestra/Neeme Järvi
CATALOGUE NO: CHAN 9189 DDD
Stravinsky’s music for his theatre work for narrator and chamber ensemble may well be familiar from the more often heard suite, which, bar a few repetitions, contains most of the complete work’s musical numbers. Its story, distantly related to the Faust legend, is about a soldier who sells his soul to the devil for ‘steak, egg and chips, three times a day’ and other temptations.

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It might seem strange to cast a Danish bass in an English-language spoken role, but, his rather suspect ‘character’ accents for the devil and soldier apart, he proves an engaging storyteller and his English is idiomatic. One can sometimes sense the danger that the narrative content might dramatically overpower the musical, but not here, with such chirpy, incisive playing from members of the Royal Scottish National Orchestra, in particular the unnamed violinist and trumpeter.

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Although the instrumental parts were recorded in Glasgow in 1986 and the narration added in Copenhagen some six and a half years later, the two sessions are welded together well enough in the finished recording, though the studio sound for Haugland sounds less natural than that provided for the ensemble. Matthew Rye