L'Histoire du Soldat

Curtis Presents | March 21, 2023 8:00 p.m.

Curtis on Tour proudly presents a night of virtuosic performances, twentieth-century classics, and electrifying new works. The concert kicks off with American composer Viet Cuong‘s (’19) Well-Groomed for solo snare drum, hair comb, and card. Called “alluring” and “wildly inventive” by the New York Times, the award-winning young musician is known for his whimsical compositions, and this ingenious piece redefines any perceived boundaries of the snare drum, drawing unexpected, innovative sounds from the instrument.  

The program continues with Francis Poulenc‘s vivacious Sonata for clarinet and bassoon. Noted for its jazzy, bitonal passages and lively rhythmic counterpoint, this sparkling three-movement work has become a popular staple in the woodwind repertoire since its premiere at the Théâtre des Champs-Élysées in 1923. Poulenc’s playful Sonata is followed by Krzysztof Penderecki‘s rhapsodic Duo for violin and bass. This lively, lyrical composition underscores the stark contrast between the two stringed instruments as they engage in an emotionally charged, delightfully spirited dialogue within this short, seven-minute showpiece. 

The first half of the concert concludes with an exciting new work for the L’Histoire septet by Nick DiBerardino (’18), director of composition Studies and Ensemble 20/21. Igor Stravinsky‘s theatrical L’Histoire du Soldat is full of vibrant dance forms. It marches, waltzes, ragtimes, tangoes, and even dances with the Devil. Inspired by this visionary chamber work, Mr. DiBerardino’s original composition takes up Stravinsky’s emphatic focus on rhythm, finding a syncopated, slithering new way for this septet to dance. 

The evening continues with a performance of Stravinsky’s exhilarating L’Histoire du Soldat (A Soldier’s Tale). This Faustian tale of trickery, desire, temptation, and magic for chamber orchestra and narrator is brought vividly to life through an incredible ensemble of musicians from the Curtis Institute of Music as they team up with beloved actor and narrator John de Lancie Jr.; award-winning performer David Shifrin (Clarinet ’71); and prominent recitalist Soovin Kim (Violin ’99).

Conceived by Stravinsky and Swiss writer C. F. Ramus in 1917 as a traveling piece to be toured and performed in villages across Switzerland, this celebrated dramatic spectacle has captured the imagination of audiences worldwide since its successful premiere over 100 years ago. Inspired by Stravinsky’s discovery of American jazz, the disillusionment caused by World War I, and a Russian folk tale lifted from Alexander Afanasyev’s The Runaway Soldier and the Devil, L’Histoire marks the composer’s final break with the Russian orchestra school in which he had been fostered. This masterful, rhythmic piece follows a soldier who trades his fiddle to the Devil in return for limitless wealth and power—and the tremendous cost the soldier must ultimately pay. 

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Curtis Presents

Past and future meet through Curtis Presents, which features a diverse collection of artists—alumni, faculty, students, and contemporary creators—whose musical foundations are rooted in the Curtis community. This series of intimate and innovative recitals offers a unique experience with exceptional artistry and one-of-a-kind programs.

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