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About the program

According to Stravinsky, the idea of L’histoire du soldat occurred to him in 1917. “The idea of writing for a théâtre ambulant (touring theatre company) has come to me more than once since the outbreak of the war. The kind of play I was thinking of would employ very few characters so that it could be performed everywhere while travelling through Swiss villages, and it had to be quite simple too for the audience to grasp it easily. I discovered the topic in a tale about a Soldier and the Devil by Afanasiev,’” says Stravinsky. (Afanasiev collected his stories about the military from peasant conscripts during the Russian–Turkish war.)

As the composer tells about it, his original concept was “to make the time and style of our play fit the period around 1918 as well as any other period; to fit several nations and none; and we had to achieve this goal without demolishing the Devil’s role in religious culture.” The original performance of the play, as well as the sets and the staging, followed this concept. “In 1918, our soldier was explicitly a victim of the current world conflict, although the performance remained neutral from all other points of view. L’histoire du soldat is my only work for the stage with topical references.” The libretto was written by Charles Ferdinand Ramuz, who tells us that he first met Stravinsky in a restaurant in Lausanne and who “…introduced himself as an admirer of Petroushka. Ramuz was an incredibly kind person (except towards his wife, who he was forced to marry and continued to call Mademoiselle…), bursting with life. Our co-operation, while we were preparing the French version of my Russian texts, was one of the most enjoyable literary partnerships of my life.”

In his conversations with Robert Craft, apart from choosing the topic, the composer also tells him about the style of the work and his choice of instruments for it. He had to make do with a bare skeleton of an instrumental group, yet this wasn’t only due to financial considerations: “this restriction didn’t mean an opportunistic compromise, as my musical ideas had originally pertained to solo instruments. My choice of instruments was influenced by an important event in my life, my discovery of American jazz.”

The work premiered in Lausanne with considerable success. However, the artists had to be content with a single performance as the Spanish flu reached Lausanne the following day.


990 HUF


Igor Stravinsky: Histoire du soldat (The Soldier’s Tale)


Zsolt Jankó


Róbert Alföldi


Musicians of the Budapest Festival Orchestra
Ágnes Bíró, violin
Zsolt Fejérvári, double bass
Rudolf Szitka, clarinet
Dániel Tallián, bassoon
Tamás Póti, trumpet
Balázs Szakszon, trombone
László Herboly, percussion