STRAVINSKY: Histoire du soldat (Suite); Renard

While the cover suggests just two pieces, the instrumental suite
derived from the theater piece Histoire du soldat and the single-act Burlesque, Renard, this
recording includes a number of brief works that are otherwise difficult to find so conveniently.
The other pieces that accompany those two larger ones are: Pastorale for violin and wind quartet;
3 Pieces for Solo Clarinet; Pour Picasso; Pribaoutki and Berceuses du chat (both with mezzo
soprano Catherine Ciesinksi); 2 Balmont Songs and 3 Japanese Lyrics (both with soprano Susan
Narucki); Scherzo a la russe (original Jazz band version, 1944); and the Song of the Volga
Boatmen. As volume seven of Naxos’s collected edition of Stravinsky’s music, its focus
addresses a need in making available these lesser known, but quite interesting smaller-scale

Just as Stravinsky’s style appears in bold strokes in the broad canvasses of such large-scale
works as Le sacre du printemps, The Firebird, Petrouchka, the Symphony of Psalms, and other
such pieces, the composer’s sonic fingerprints are evident within a few notes of chamber pieces
like the Pastorale or the Three Pieces for Clarinet. The compression and telegraphic delivery that
is associated with Stravinsky’s style is present in these smaller pieces, and they are equally
compelling for the artful concision is part of the composer’s pointed and compressed style.
Performances of these work require a familiarity with Stravinsky’s style so that they convey
immediately the music, as occurs in all the pieces collected in this recording.

The attention to the two best-known pieces, the Suite from Histoire du soldat and Renard, is
deserved. While it is not difficult to find any number of solid recordings of the full version of
Histoire with narrator, the spoken part is often most effective when rendered in the vernacular.
Yet with this instrumental suite from the Histoire, Stravinsky precluded such concerns. The
version of Renard recorded here is based on the 1953 English-language translation of the 1916
piece which was, as indicated in the notes, revised by Robert Craft—in fact, he conducted this
performance, which includes the tenor John Aler . Engagingly sung, Renard’s text is as important
as its music, and it benefits from study, and it would be helpful if the libretto would have been
included with this fine recording. As an alternate version of Renard, like the Suite derived from
Histoire, this and other pieces preserve some alternate versions of music by Stravinsky, like the
jazz-band version of the Scherzo à la Russe (1944).

As indicated on the CD, some of the performances found on this recording have been previously
released on MusicMasters and Koch International Classics labels. This is by no means a deficit,
since the recording brings together shorter works that are otherwise difficult to obtain. When
considered together, these examples demonstrate Stravinsky’s efforts at writing more compressed
works that are nonetheless effective. While it is a useful volume in the series of recordings of the
composer’s music being issued by Naxos, this single release stands well on its own merits. The
extensive notes by Robert Craft offer a useful guide to the contents and the significance of the
individual pieces of this release.

James Zychowicz

image_description=Igor Stravinsky: Histoire du soldat (Suite), Renard.
product_title=Igor Stravinsky: Histoire du soldat (Suite), Renard.
product_by=Aler, Spears, Evitts, Pauley, Ciesinski, Marucki, Orchestra of St. Luke’s, Robert Craft, conductor.
product_id=Naxos 8.557505 [CD]