Faust | Horwitz & Friends
Igor Stravinsky: “L’Histoire du Soldat”
The “Soldier’s Tale” is a testimony to the waning days of the First World War: a small cast dictated by the war, the subject of a soldier seduced by the devil and Stravinsky’s musical language, which often employs parodic distortions and borrows from folklore and jazz. The work will be presented by Isabelle Faust at the Musikfest Berlin with a select ensemble of soloists.
An exquisite ensemble has come together here: Genuine virtuosos equally devoted to new and old music, team players in prestigious small and large formations – the kind of ensemble you need for this piece, in which everyone is challenged soloistically and as interactor. The soul of it all is the violin, the instrument the soldier gives away for a book on how to become rich with a vow of solitude. The musical symbol is a march that guides the soldier through the story, surrounded by a variety of genres from small and large chorales to the fashionable dances of the nascent 1920s – Stravinsky was able to experience and study them first-hand in Paris. The story itself is conveyed by a narrator; it incorporates spoken lines from the protagonists. The material is taken from fairy tales, yet it fits the reality of the Great War in its final phase.
The soldier makes a deal with the devil: violin for a book of spells. This makes him rich, but nobody recognises him afterwards. When he steals the violin from a she-devil, he can no longer play it. Only after he has destroyed wealth and the book of spells does his violin playing save a princess from her melancholy. She becomes his wife. While trying to return with her to his homeland, he crosses the border agreed upon with the devil, who is already waiting for him.
The play was written for a traveling theatre, it takes up the tradition of the vagabond theatre and establishes a form that goes against the aesthetics of the grand, the overwhelming. The soldier making a pact with the devil is a man of the people, similar to the soldiers and drummer boy in Gustav Mahler’s “Wunderhornlieder”: the devilish interplay between hardship, repression and longing for the great life is drastically revealed through him.