Stravinsky's L'histoire du soldat, here The Soldier's Tale, is a work for narrator and small instrumental ensemble, ideally with dancers. The work was translated into English by Michael Flanders and Kitty Black; the "revised by Pamela Berlin" label here refers to some Americanisms inserted by Virginia Arts Festival director Pamela Berlin, and this American Soldier's Tale may be unique. The story comes from a little Faustian folktale of a soldier-at-war's-end, who accepts a bargain with the Devil, and the direct, at times doggerel-like rhymes of the text do well when given the directness of a translation into vernacular English. You don't get a big-name narrator as you do with some British English-language recordings, but narrator Fred Child, Jared McGuire as the soldier, and Jeff Biehl as the Devil effectively realize Berlin's down-to-earth vision of the work. The biggest name involved in the production is the frequent Naxos-label violinist Tianwa Yang, and she proves an ideal Stravinsky instrumentalist, crisp and sharp. Put it together with the fine work of the little-known Virginia Arts Festival Chamber Players under JoAnn Falletta, and with a realization of the voice parts that achieves a kind of American simplicity, and you have a praiseworthy version of this Stravinsky classic at a budget price.
AllMusic Review by James Manheim
|The Soldier's Tale|