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Stravinsky: Soldier's Tale / Dumbarton Oaks CD

4.0 out of 5 stars 2 customer reviews

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Stravinsky: Soldier' S Tale (The) / Dumbarton Oaks
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Audio CD, CD, 30 Nov 1998
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Product details

  • Performer: David Timson, Benjamin Soames, Jonathan Keeble
  • Orchestra: Northern Chamber Orchestra
  • Conductor: Nicholas Ward
  • Composer: Igor Stravinsky
  • Audio CD (30 Nov. 1998)
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Format: CD
  • Label: Naxos
  • ASIN: B00000ICLZ
  • Other Editions: Audio CD  |  MP3 Download
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 166,244 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)
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Product description

L'Histoire du Soldat - Concerto "Dumbarton Oaks" / Northern Chamber Orchestra - Nicholas Ward, direction

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By DAVID BRYSON TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on 14 Dec. 2009
Format: Audio CD Verified Purchase
It's quite safe to say to every enthusiast for Stravinsky that the musical side of this production is excellent, supported by faultless recordings from 1995 and 1996, and the disc is an excellent bargain as well, as you would expect from Naxos. The style adopted for this English version of The Soldier's Tale is completely consistent on its own terms too. The soldier himself sounds innocent and green, as of course he should do. He also sounds rather suburban, Purley rather than Peckham, whereas I would have expected him to sound more proletarian. However, if he had sounded that way he would have been out of keeping with the text he is given. This English translation is by two authors in collaboration, the one whose name I know being Michael Flanders. Without any disrespect to Flanders's memory as an entertainer, I can't really feel that his idiom fits this quirky little variant on the Faust legend. I certainly agree that rhyming verse is the right way to do it, as that helps to keep the listener's focus. (The text is not printed in the liner, and I don't believe you will need it there.) What I find all the same is that the rhymes here are dreadfully flat-footed. The English language is not very rich in rhymes, as Housman said by way of noting Swinburne's extraordinary ingenuity in overcoming this limitation. However I really yearn for better rhymes than we get here, and indeed for an English diction generally that is not so dated and 1950's insipid. In this year of grace (or disgrace) 2009 the theme of money being the devil's tool of corruption and damnation has a very strong resonance, and I would love to see and hear a new English text for The Soldier's Tale that is more in keeping with our own era and culture.Read more ›
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Format: Audio CD
I understand David Bryson's view about the translated text and the 1950's syle of diction but this translation can and has worked before. I agree that much of the playing is first class and that the concerto is excellent but my first experience of the Soldier's Tale was a wonderful DG recording with the Boston Symphony Players and no less than John Gielgud, Tom Courtney and Ron Moody as the speakers.

You can imagine that that would take some beating and I've never heard better since. It's strengths highlight the shortcomings in this recording. Firstly, the DG sound was very close - as if the performers were in your room, making it intimate but very incisive without any unnecessary reverb. Secondly, the playing was outstanding with the final drums solo really stealing the show (the Devil is dancing with joy) - her it seems to leave with a quiet whimper. Thirdly, the speakers perform in clipped phrases echoing the tight rhythms of the piece. It sounds less naturalistic and more caricature but, as a result, not set in a particular time - monumental you might say - like many Stravinsky theatre pieces. Finally, Ron Moody's devil stole the show again by being menacing and a comic cartoon villain at the same time. In this Naxos recording we're transported from our living rooms to an empty, echoey hall. The speakers seem too relaxed and conversational compared tot eh tight DG version. Even so, it is still enjoyable to follow the story.

Let's be fair, it's asking too much to match the DG recording and this Naxos recording is still a fine performance in a not too populated field. I do miss my old DG record that slowly drowned, after many playings, in a sea of snap, crackle and pops. If there is anyone at DG or anywhere else able to organise a release of the DG recording, however, I would be overjoyed. Is anyone listening?
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta) (May include reviews from Early Reviewer Rewards Program)

Amazon.com: 4.7 out of 5 stars 7 reviews
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The "Faust" of the 20th Century 6 Oct. 2009
By Eric S. Kim - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Audio CD Verified Purchase
Any admirer of Igor Stravinsky will know not only how influential this man has become for modern-day music, but how diverse his compositions are. He has created music in three stages: Russian (The Firebird), Neo-Classical (Pulcinella), and Serial (Requiem Canticles). The Soldier's Tale (L'histoire du Soldat), in particular, is a 60-minute theatrical composition that belongs in the Neo-classical period. In collaboration with the Swiss writer C.F. Ramuz, it's basically a modern-day Faust tale which is told through narration and dialogue (there are only three actors who speak the entire time). The music itself is relatively inspired by jazz and ragtime, and only seven instruments are required: violin, double bass, clarinet, bassoon, trumpet, trombone, and percussion. The story goes: A soldier who is on leave for only ten days meets the devil, who just happens to hear the man, named Joseph, play his fiddle. The devil asks to exchange the fiddle with a mysterious book that can give Joseph undeniable wealth. It is accepted, but as soon as Joseph becomes a man of wealth, he soon realizes that he is empty inside. The only way to redeem himself is to take back his fiddle, which is one of the things from his past that he has truly admired. Also featured on this CD is the "Dumbarton Oaks" Concerto, which is also from the Neo-Classical period. It is fifteen minutes long, and it's sure to become a little favorite among Stravinsky fans.

Conductor Nicholas Ward (also violinist for Soldier's Tale) gives a superb reading. Nothing is overblown whatsoever, and both pieces feel authentic overall. The Northern Chamber Orchestra is surprisingly fantastic: every note is played flawlessly. The actors for Soldier's Tale give very fine performances as well, though I can't help that the actor playing Joseph sounds like a young Johnny Depp (!). Naxos sound quality isn't very excellent, but it's still pretty great.

Grade: A
5.0 out of 5 stars Great product I would purchase this item again works as ... 29 April 2015
By V. Register - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Audio CD Verified Purchase
Great product I would purchase this item again works as advertised and functions as you would want it to if you bought it like I did.
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars What a Deal 26 Nov. 2003
By Brian Hoskins - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Audio CD Verified Purchase
This performance is wonderfull. The narration on most others is done with an artificial "poetic" drone, whereas this is done in a natural tone of voice. The instruments are played excellently. The price definitely makes this the best value.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars THE TRANSLATOR'S TALE 14 Dec. 2009
By DAVID BRYSON - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Audio CD
It's quite safe to say to every enthusiast for Stravinsky that the musical side of this production is excellent, supported by faultless recordings from 1995 and 1996, and the disc is an excellent bargain as well, as you would expect from Naxos. The style adopted for this English version of The Soldier's Tale is completely consistent on its own terms too. The soldier himself sounds innocent and green, as of course he should do. He also sounds rather suburban, Purley rather than Peckham, whereas I would have expected him to sound more proletarian. However, if he had sounded that way he would have been out of keeping with the text he is given. This English translation is by two authors in collaboration, the one whose name I know being Michael Flanders. Without any disrespect to Flanders's memory as an entertainer, I can't really feel that his idiom fits this quirky little variant on the Faust legend. I certainly agree that rhyming verse is the right way to do it, as that helps to keep the listener's focus. (The text is not printed in the liner, and I don't believe you will need it there.) What I find all the same is that the rhymes here are dreadfully flat-footed. The English language is not very rich in rhymes, as Housman said by way of noting Swinburne's extraordinary ingenuity in overcoming this limitation. However I really yearn for better rhymes than we get here, and indeed for an English diction generally that is not so dated and 1950's insipid. In this year of grace (or disgrace) 2009 the theme of money being the devil's tool of corruption and damnation has a very strong resonance, and I would love to see and hear a new English text for The Soldier's Tale that is more in keeping with our own era and culture.

Obviously I don't expect everybody to share this viewpoint, and I gladly concede that the spoken side of the performance at least has integrity and consistency from its own standpoint. Where I hope I will get more agreement is in my opinion of the instrumental playing, which I would call excellent without qualification. There are seven instrumentalists, all rightly identified by name, in The Soldier, and they play Stravinsky as I love to hear him played - the tone clear, the texture clean and linear, the rhythm crisp. The purely instrumental sections, mainly the marches and the various dances but with a solemn contrast provided by the trumpet and trombone in the two chorales, are just right to my ears, and well recorded too, as they need to be. The English version of the liner note appears to be by Keith Anderson if I have tracked this information down accurately, and it does what I would call its proper job in giving a detailed synopsis of the action. There are also short profiles of the three actors, together with brief notes on the Northern Chamber Orchestra and its conductor Nicholas Ward who perform the Dumbarton Oaks concerto that provides a welcome filler to The Soldier's Tale.

I love concerti grossi, and I love the Dumbarton Oaks concerto grosso in particular. For anyone so far unfamiliar with it, Stravinsky modelled it on the Brandenburg concertos of J S Bach, using the 3-movement format that Bach uses in 5 out of his 6. The performers are the admirable Northern Chamber Orchestra, founded in Manchester in 1967. Even a small orchestra sounds rich and full-toned after the austere septet that accompanies the soldier and his tale. I enjoyed this contrast just for its own sake, and the speeds were my idea of right in all three movements. Only the first is marked `tempo giusto', but I found three tempi giusti.

Perhaps I am wrong in not giving the full 5 stars to this fine disc, but you know what my reason for that is, whatever you think of it. I am thoroughly pleased to have acquired it, and with any luck time may reconcile me, at least partially, to the text.
13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A fantastic recording of two seldom-heard masterworks. 12 April 2001
By Chris Massa - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Audio CD
A lot of people associate the name Igor Stravinsky with "The Rite of Spring," and maybe "Petrushka" or "The Firebird." Not that there's anything wrong with this. Stravinsky's early ballets are some of his finest work, particularly "Le Sacre," which is arguably the greatest twentieth century piece ever penned, by anybody. However, there is a lot of great music that Stravinsky wrote besides these three works. Two of them appear on this recording, "The Soldier's Tale (L'Histoire du Soldat)" and "Concerto in E-flat (Dumbarton Oaks)". "The Soldier's Tale" is a marvelous work, telling a Faust-like story about an unfortunate soldier who gets a little bit too close to "the dark side," I guess you could say. There are several recordings of this piece, and while this is certainly not the best known, it is a wonderful one. The use of three separate actors really enhances the performance and makes it very easy to follow. My one complaint is that the bassoon could be a bit higher in the mix, but that's a small concern. "Dumbarton Oaks" is a masterpiece too, though on a smaller scale. Lasting only about 15 minutes (not bad for three movements), it's clearly inspired by the work of a much earlier musical genius, ie, Bach. It's a light, energetic piece that is as masterful as it is accessible. The performance is flawless and really captures the spirit that I'm sure Stravinsky intended. All in all, this is a wonderful release, and at the ... price, you really can't go wrong with it.
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