2013 CD:

Stravinsky —
Octet and L’Histoire du Soldat

  CD Cover


Track Listing and Performers

Igor Stravinsky 1882–1971
Octet for Wind Instruments
(1923, rev. 1952)
1 I. Sinfonia 4.04
2 II. Tema con Variazioni 8.01
3 III. Finale 3.37

Katherine Lemmon flute
Anna Brumbaugh clarinet
Clay Zeller-Townson, Yuki Katayama bassoons
John Heim, Alejandro Lopez trumpets
Malcolm Williamson, Matthew Halbert  trombones

L’Histoire du soldat
(The Soldier’s Tale) (1918)

Part I
4 The Soldier’s March 1.52
5 Narration 0.50
6 Music to Scene I 2.47
7 Narration 3.33
8 Music to Scene II 2.40
9 Narration 1.18
10 Music to Scene IIIa 0.54
11 Narration 1.55
12 Music to Scene IIIb 0.53
13 Narration 0.15

Part II
14 The Soldier’s March 0.53
15 Narration 0.49
16 The Royal March 2.42
17 Narration 1.11
18 The Little Concert 3.13
19 Narration 0.20
20 Three Dances: Tango, Waltz, Ragtime 6.58
21 Narration 0.39
22 The Devil’s Dance 1.28
23 Narration 0.16
24 The Little Chorale 0.44
25 The Devil’s Song 0.44
26 Great Chorale 4.09
27 Narration 1.41
28 Triumphal March of the Devil 2.24

Jan Opalach narrator
Juliana Athayde violin
Kenneth Grant clarinet
John Hunt bassoon
James Thompson trumpet
John Marcellus trombone
James VanDemark double bass
Michael Burritt percussion

The Eastman Wind Ensemble and Eastman Virtuosi
Mark Davis Scatterday conductor

Stravinski Virtuosi   Stravinsky Octet

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Reviews

Blair Sanderson, allmusic.com

Avie in the News - The Sunday Times, 17 March 2013 (PDF)

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Notes on the Music

Octet Stravinsky’s first professional conducting job was leading the premiere of his Octet, in a Koussevitsky Concert at the Paris Opéra on 18 October 1923 – programmed with Beethoven’s ‘Eroica’ Symphony. Many musicians who admired the powerful nationalism and neo-primitivism of Petrushka and The Rite of Spring were taken aback by this change in Stravinsky’s path; among those at the premiere were the young Aaron Copland, who later recalled his reaction to what seemed to be ‘a mess of 18thcentury mannerisms’, and Sergei Prokofiev, who sourly referred to Stravinsky’s new style as ‘Bach, but with pockmarks’.

This Octet was one of the first works in a style that Stravinsky would explore for more than two decades. It’s usually called Neoclassicism: a modern approach to the forms of Baroque and Classical music – emulating the formal regularity and tonal logic of Bach, Haydn, or Mozart, but in a deceptive, sometimes satiric way. It’s the musical equivalent of a Braque or a Picasso breaking an image into its constituent parts and putting it back together according to a different logic – or perhaps a carnival juggler skillfully keeping several contrasting objects constantly aloft and in play. Hand in hand with an interest in reworking Classical musical manners, Stravinsky had also become more interested in writing for the precise timbres of wind and brass instruments; the Octet is immediately preceded by the Symphonies of Wind Instruments, and was succeeded by the Concerto for Piano and Winds. Stravinsky claimed that the initial idea for this piece came to him in a dream. His dream did not specify the instruments, but he eventually settled on the unusual combination of flute, clarinet, two bassoons, two trumpets, and two trombones. The somewhat bass-centric ensemble is handled with great delicacy and never sounds heavy (at least when well performed).

Formally the Octet is (apparently) a model of clarity: an opening Sinfonia with slow introduction followed by a theme with five variations in a modified rondo form, and a Tempo giusto finale with a hint of jazz in the coda. The music is very precisely proportioned, yet always a bit out of kilter with a listener’s expectations.

To 21st-century audiences, Stravinsky’s Octet is an ear-tickling, charmingly fractured exercise in neoclassicism, as tart and tasty as a lemon drop. The composer’s own attitude was much more severe. He used the piece as a manifesto of the musical elements he prized: clean lines, airy textures, lack of rubato, and a distaste for ‘interpretation’ (indicated by the paucity of expressive and dynamic markings in this score). He insisted that the Octet was no more than ‘a musical object’, ‘a pure structure in sound’, and claiming ‘the play of musical elements is the thing’.

True enough – but the Octet’s wit, friendly air, and fresh instrumental timbres are what have made it a popular piece, as well as a significant one. Jean Cocteau, writing about the first performance, captured this aspect of the Octet nicely when he described the effect of seeing Stravinsky leading his piece: he saw ‘the back of an astronomer engaged in solving this magnificent instrumental arithmetic with its figures of silver’.

L’Histoire du soldat During the First World War, Stravinsky and his family left France and lived in Switzerland, where the composer met the writer Charles-Ferdinand Ramuz. The two men had the idea of creating a theater piece, simple enough to be performed on a platform stage by as few actors and musicians as possible, the better to be performed during the privations of war.

Taking his cue from Russian fairy-tale characters suggested by Stravinsky, Ramuz wrote The Soldier’s Tale: a miniature Faust ‘to be acted, danced, and played’, in which the Devil makes his infernal deal with a young Soldier. Ramuz’s play calls for a narrator and two actors to play the Soldier and the Devil in his various guises; there is also a dancing role, the Princess. (In this recording, the narration and acting roles are conflated and performed by Jan Opalach.) Stravinsky provided a virtuosic score for a carefully calibrated mini-orchestra: two each of winds (clarinet and bassoon), brass (trumpet and trombone), and strings (violin and bass), plus a busy percussionist. The percussion represents the Devil, the violin the Soldier and his soul. This Europeanized Dixieland band produced a spare, sardonic sound and provided Stravinsky with a surprising variety of instrumental colors and the means to draw on a number of different musical genres: Lutheran chorales, ragtime, tangos, gypsy music, and waltzes.

A Soldier on leave trudges down a country road towards home. Resting at a stream, he is accosted by an elderly gentleman with a butterfly net under one arm and a book under the other – a magic book, he tells the Soldier, that can predict the financial future.

When the Soldier arrives in his village three days later, no one recognizes him. He realizes that he encountered the Devil, and that three years have passed instead of three days. The information in the book makes him wealthy, but he realizes he has lost everything good and true in his life. He tries to find a solution in the book, but can’t. The Devil, disguised as an old woman, returns to show the Soldier a number of things, including his beloved fiddle. The Soldier tries to play it, but can’t make a sound. Again he takes to the road, fleeing from the fortune that has made him miserable, and crosses the border to another land, where he hears of a mysterious sleeping Princess – the King has promised her hand to the man who can awaken her. At the palace, the Soldier is accosted by a virtuoso violinist – the Devil once more in disguise. In a game of cards with the Devil, the Soldier loses all his money and seizes the violin – now it will play for him.

The Soldier and his fiddle do indeed bring the Princess back to life; the Devil reappears, this time as a truly devilish fiend with hooves, paws, and a tail, begging for the violin. When the Soldier refuses, the Devil dances in a rage until he collapses. The Soldier’s triumph is momentary: if the Soldier crosses the frontier to return home, he will again fall into the Devil’s power. And that is exactly what happens after the Princess persuades the Soldier to return home. As he crosses the frontier, the Devil appears with the violin and leads the Soldier away.

One can see the interest an expatriate composer might have in this simple but powerfully symbolic story. Stravinsky himself avoided the Soldier’s fate: apart from an official visit to the USSR in 1962, he never crossed back over the border to his home, returning to France in 1920 and becoming an American citizen in 1945.

— David Raymond, 2013

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Background

Jan Opalach was a principal artist of New York City Opera for 30 years, performing the title roles in Le nozze di Figaro and Falstaff, Dulcamara (L’elisir d’amore), Leporello (Don Giovanni), Bartolo (Il barbiere di Siviglia), Wesener (Bernd Alois Zimmerman’s Die Soldaten), and the Forester (The Cunning Little Vixen). He has also appeared with the Metropolitan Opera (Philip Glass’s The Voyage, War and Peace), Opera Theater of St. Louis (Nixon in China), Santa Fe Opera (La bohème), Seattle Opera (Così fan tutte, Xerxes, Ariadne auf Naxos), Washington Opera (Cendrillon), Canadian Opera Company (Il barbiere di Siviglia, Xerxes), and English National Opera (British premiere of Die Soldaten). He has collaborated with such conductors as Daniel Barenboim, Semyon Bychkov, Charles Dutoit, Christopher Hogwood, Lorin Maazel, Kurt Masur, Sir Simon Rattle, Helmuth Rilling, Robert Shaw, Leonard Slatkin and David Zinman, and heard in recitals in Alice Tully Hall, Morgan Library, the Concertgebouw, the Library of Congress, Harvard University and the Eastman School of Music, where he has been a faculty member since 2008. He has also been an adjudicator for the Naumburg, Joy in Singing and Concert Artist Guild competitions. Jan Opalach has made many recordings, of music from Bach and Haydn to Stravinsky and Elliott Carter. He recently recorded two chamber operas by Paul Salerni: Caruso’s Final Broadcast and The Life and Love of Joe Coogan, a Carl Reiner-authorized adaptation of a Dick van Dyke Show episode.

The fourth conductor of the Eastman Wind Ensemble, Mark Davis Scatterday joined a prestigious line of conductors in the past 60 years of this famed ensemble: Donald Hunsberger, Clyde Roller and Frederick Fennell. In 2004, he led the EWE in a tour to East Asia, and in 2005, a highly acclaimed performance at Carnegie Hall. In December 2009, the EWE performed at the Midwest Clinic in Chicago to an audience of over 4,000. In the fall of 2010, Scatterday conducted the New World Symphony in Miami, returning in 2011 for a concert in the orchestra’s new Frank Gehry-designed Symphony Hall. Mark Scatterday’s articles about score analysis, performance practices and conducting have been published in Wind Works, College Band Director’s National Association Journal and Band Director’s Guide, and he is a prolific arranger. He is also a lead clinician in the Frederick Fennell Conducting Master Classes held annually by the Conductor’s Guild. An advocate of contemporary music, especially the music of Karel Husa and Roberto Sierra, Scatterday has commissioned, premiered, and recorded over 25 works. His recent recordings include Danzante, with James Thompson and the Eastman Wind Ensemble (Summit Records, 2006), and Barcelonazo, with Eastman Musica Nova (Bridge Records; nominated for a 2008 Latin Grammy). The EWE’s CD with the Canadian Brass, Manhattan Music, was nominated for a 2009 Canadian Grammy, the ‘JUNO’.

Eastman Virtuosi is a chamber ensemble composed of Eastman School of Music faculty members and outstanding student performers. Its imaginatively conceived and programmed concerts show the depth and breadth of Eastman’s instrumental and vocal artistry. Artistic co-directors are Eastman Virtuosi founders Bonita Boyd, flute; John Hunt, bassoon; and Nicholas Goluses, guitar.

The Eastman Wind Ensemble is America’s leading wind ensemble. Frederick Fennell first
formulated the general concept of the wind ensemble at Eastman more than 50 years ago. Under his leadership the group became the pioneering force in the symphonic wind band movement in the United States and abroad. A. Clyde Roller served as conductor between 1962 and 1964, continuing the tradition established by Fennell. Donald Hunsberger became conductor in 1965 and led the ensemble for 37 years to international prominence. The ensemble’s current director, Mark Davis Scatterday, was introduced during the EWE’s 50th anniversary celebration on 8 February 2002. The EWE has been in the forefront of elevating the wind repertory through recordings. Fennell’s Mercury ‘Living Presence’ albums of the 1950s and early ’60s focused on standard band literature by the most respected classical composers and on major repertory not found on traditional band programs, by such composers as Hindemith, Schoenberg, and Stravinsky. Under Hunsberger, the EWE recorded on the Deutsche Grammophon, Phillips, CBS Masterworks (now Sony Classical), Toshiba EMI, Tioch (now KEF), Vox, Centaur, and Desto labels. Carnival, with Wynton Marsalis, was nominated for a Grammy® Award in 1987. The EWE’s recent recordings include concertos by Dana Wilson, Eric Ewazen, and Jacques Hétu with soloist James Thompson (Summit Records, 2005) and Manhattan Music (Opening Day, 2008) with the Canadian Brass, which was nominated for a 2009 Canadian Juno Award. The EWE has premiered more than 150 new works, made major national tours, and several important tours of Japan and the Far East under Donald Hunsberger and Mark Scatterday. This new recording celebrates the EWE’s 60th anniversary.

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Recording Information

Octet: Recorded 11–12 May 2011, Eastman East Wing
Engineer: John Truebger · Producer: Christopher Unger

L’Histoire du soldat: Recorded 25 September 2011, Eastman East Wing
Engineer: John Truebger · Producer: Jeff Tyzik
Production assistants: Christopher Unger and Reed Chamberlin
Post-production: John Truebger
Mastering: Randy Merrill at Scott Hull Mastering, Inc. / Masterdisk, New York, NY
This recording was made using the Eastman School of Music’s new state-of-the-art recording control room located in the Eastman East Wing. The recording was made using Neumann U87, TLM170, KM140 and KM184, DPA 4006, and Schoeps CMC6xtMK22 and CMT56 microphones. To maintain the highest quality audio possible in today’s digital recordings, Millennia Media HV-3R microphone preamps and Benchmark Media Systems ADC16 analog-to-digital converters were used. The monitoring system used was a Guzauski-Swist GS3a surround sound system. For more information on recording services and the control room, please visit us online: www.esm.rochester.edu/esmtmp/rec/.

The copyright in this sound recording is owned by the Eastman School of Music © 2013 Eastman School of Music.
Marketed by Avie Records www.avierecords.com

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