Program notes for 2017

The Soldier's Tale

Dates Venues
Saturday 2 Sep, 11:00am Home Hill Winery, Ranelagh*
Saturday 2 Sep, 3:00pm Riversdale Estate, Cambridge*
Saturday 9 Sep, 3:00pm City Baptist Church, Launceston
Sunday 10 Sep, 2:00pm Burnie Arts and Function Centre, Burnie

* if staying to enjoy the hospitality of the venue, please make a booking:
Home Hill Winery Restaurant 6264 1200
Riversdale Estate 6248 5555

Igor Stravinsky (1882-1971)
The Soldier’s Tale (L’Histoire du Soldat)

Stravinsky’s music progressed through several distinct stages throughout his long career. The early period mirrored the style of his teacher Nicolai Rimsky-Korsakov but he is best remembered today for the 3 great ballets he composed for Diaghilev’s Ballet Russes – The Firebird, Petrushka and The Rite of Spring. The famous riot at the first performance of The Rite in 1913 marks the beginning of Modernism. Stravinsky continued to reinvent himself by embracing Neo-classicism and, late in life, Serialism.

The Soldier’s Tale comes from 1918 near the end of World War 1, a period of austerity for the composer. This is reflected in the pared back instrumental scoring – clarinet, bassoon, cornet (or trumpet), trombone, violin, double bass, and percussion. The original concert version calls for 3 speakers plus a dancer with a French text by Swiss writer C. F. Ramuz in a Faustian story based on a Russian folk tale. The music is neoclassical in style with strong jazz influences; it is tart, grim, and witty, while also incorporating tango rhythms, a march and a waltz. This performance uses the recent English edition with a single narrator by British director/writer/translator Jeremy Sams.

Joseph, a Russian soldier, is playing his fiddle by a stream. He is approached by the Devil who offers him power, wealth, and knowledge of the future in exchange for his fiddle. The soldier agrees and returns to his home over three days where everyone treats him as a ghost. Three years have actually elapsed but his despair at finding his betrothed married to another is eased by the fact that he has acquired great wealth. However, he still longs for his old life. The Devil returns and sells Joseph back his old violin but he can no longer play it.

The soldier now travels to a castle where a princess is dying and again he encounters the Devil disguised as a virtuoso violinist. Joseph purposely loses his wealth in a card game with the Devil to win the hand of the princess. He then seizes the Devil’s violin and plays, whereupon the princess is miraculously healed and begins to dance. The Devil is also compelled to dance and eventually succumbs to exhaustion, defeated by the soldier. Joseph and the princess embrace but the Devil warns him that he will regain control of him should he ever leave the castle. The work ends when the soldier fatefully crosses the forbidden border and the Devil triumphantly assumes control once more.

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Flute Harp Strings

Dates Venues
Saturday 30 Sep, 11:00am Home Hill Winery, Ranelagh*
Saturday 30 Sep, 3:00pm Riversdale Estate, Cambridge*
Sunday 1 Oct, 4:00pm City Baptist Church, Launceston

* if staying to enjoy the hospitality of the venue, please make a booking:
Home Hill Winery Restaurant 6264 1200
Riversdale Estate 6248 5555

Ludwig van Beethoven (1770-1827)
Serenade in D major, for flute, violin and viola, Op 25

I Entrata. Allegro II Tempo ordinario d’un Menuetto III Allegro molto (D minor) IV Andante con variazione (G major) V Allegro scherzando e vivace VI Adagio – Allegro vivace e disinvolto

Beethoven composed this work around 1795/96 while he was in Vienna for study with Haydn. While he was generally writing for piano and string groupings at this time, he occasionally made a foray into more novel combinations such as in his hugely popular Septet Op 20 for clarinet, horn, bassoon, violin, viola, cello, and double bass.

The Serenade Op 25 was designed as outdoor entertainment music in the tradition of Mozart’s Serenades. The work includes some delightful features – a march-like Entrata and a charming minuet. The Andante variations give each instrument opportunities to shine while a rustic dance concludes this airy, light-hearted piece.

Claude Debussy (1862-1918)
Sonata for flute, viola and harp

I Pastorale. Lento, dolce rubato II Interlude: Tempo di Minuetto III Finale. Allegro moderato ma risoluto

When he composed this work in 1915, World War I was beginning its destruction of the old order in European society and Debussy himself was in the early stages of the colon cancer that would eventually kill him. The composer’s creativity had ceased and he also suffered the loss of his mother early in that year. During the summer he began composing again. First a Sonata for cello and piano was quickly completed at Pourville and the Sonata for flute, viola and harp was finished before his return to Paris in October.

Debussy’s inspiration went far back beyond his impressionism to the French Baroque. The mysterious opening Pastorale emerges from fragments of themes with 2 wistful motives allotted to the flute and the viola along with a drone-like one for viola and harp. These are developed and after a quicker middle section they are repeated towards the end. The 2nd movement makes the most obvious references to the Baroque but with modern harmonies. The Finale is carefully constructed developing from 3 motives presented in quick succession at the start, the music moving faster while combining duple and triple rhythms. There is a brief respite recalling the initial flute theme from the first movement before the close.

Camille Saint-Saëns (1835-1921)
Fantasy in A major for violin and harp, Op 124

Cast in a single movement in 1907 when Saint Saëns was 72, the Fantasy was composed in the city of Bridger on the Italian Riviera. It is a virtuoso piece and one of 3 works that he wrote for the harp at that time. It features this composer’s distinctive characteristics – clarity of form and melodic charm -along with a special sonority from this scoring for the 2 string instruments. Some inspiration suggestive of the Italian Baroque can perhaps be discerned in the section featuring bass ostinato in the harp with variations for the violin.

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