This is the first recording of Stravinsky's L'histoire du Soldat replacing the original text by Ferdinand Ramuz with a version that Kurt Vonnegut wrote in 1993. Stravinsky's score is intact, but Vonnegut's new take on the subject retains nothing from Ramuz's original. Vonnegut's version is a dramatic account of the case of Private Eddie Slovik, the first American soldier executed for desertion since the Civil War, in France in 1945. (This is one of the few classical recordings to come with a parental advisory warning.) The narration has four characters: Private Slovik, the General, the M.P., and Caroline the Red Cross nurse, who act out and describe the events leading up to Slovik's death. Vonnegut weaves his new tale into the existing music so naturally and brilliantly that it's hard to believe he hadn't actively collaborated with the composer on it. The historical specificity and visceral urgency of his rhymed text make the music seem even more bitterly sardonic than the original. In this superb performance, actors Joseph Alessi, Jr., David Baker, Max Sturm, and Madeline Huffman take the spoken parts, and the music is played with incisiveness and nuanced flexibility by the American Chamber Winds, led by David A. Waybright. The prominence of the voices takes some initial adjusting to get used to, but a sense of the appropriateness of the balance quickly settles in. Any fan of Stravinsky is likely to be intrigued by this novel realization of his classic and may even be swept away by its power. (Vonnegut's text retains the work's original French title; it's the album's producers who've added the adjective "American.") The album is filled out with an especially spirited, rhythmically punchy performance of the suite from the work, played by violinist Todd Reynolds, clarinetist Evan Ziporyn, and pianist Andrew Russo.
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AllMusic Review by Stephen Eddins
|An American Soldier's Tale|
|Suite for Clarinet, Violin and Piano|