Wynton Marsalis

Stravinsky: The Soldier's Tale; Marsalis: Meeelaan

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Among the numerous highly successful and enduring compositions of Igor Stravinsky, L'histoire du soldat (Soldier's Tale) is likely one of his popular chamber compositions. It exists in several guises, including the full version with narrator (heard here) that Stravinsky intended to be danced, and the popular Suite for violin, clarinet, and piano. When performing the full Soldier's Tale, the narrator truly makes or breaks the performance. In the case of this Camerata disc with the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center, Emmy- and Tony-award-winning actor André de Shields sets a magnificent backdrop of the musical backdrop filled with clear diction, impeccable voice changes, and captivating array of vocal timbres. The live performance by the musicians of the CMSLC is equally finessed, with special kudos to violinist Ida Kavafian for her deft handling of the virtuosic violin part. The disc also includes a composition by Wynton Marsalis, entitled Meeelaan (a phonetic spelling of his pronunciation of bassoonist Milan Turkovic's -- for whom the piece was written -- name). Scored for bassoon and string quartet -- keeping with Stravinsky's penchant for combining unlikely instruments -- Meeelaan contains three short dance movements: "Blues," "Tango," and "Bebop." Joined by the Orion String Quartet, Turkovic produces a variety of sound effects and acrobatic feats that few would think possible on the bassoon. The resulting performance of the highly original work is polished and refined while still plentifully spontaneous and free.

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