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Salient: Victoria University Students' Paper. Vol. 25, No. 7. 1962.




What Price Meaning?

Restraint is the chief characteristic of the Cantata (1052), on the reverse side of Symphony in C. Settings of anonymous 15th and 16th century English lyrics, Cantata is not the kind of music one expects to hear every day of the week. Except perhaps Sunday (an ideal present for Miss Mercovri!) for the work is strongly liturgical in character. Perhaps it is for reason of its size—small female choir, small instrumental ensemble, two soloists, yet the work is surprisingly popular here. I have heard two performances of it done locally in the past two years, and the quality of the local work suggests that the piece is not as hard to understand as it might at first seem. The sub-heading "What price meaning?" relates to Stravinsky's setting of words. He may capture the mood of a poem he sets, but he will not relate the meaning of the words to the music's form. Words which are significant in themselves profit most by being set to music which also exists independently. Serene, unemotional, lyrical, Cantata puts aside all commonplace theatrical devices, and is thereby a most rewarding listening experience. There is again little fault to be found in the performers, though Westron Wind, the last song, seems a little fast for the soloists.

(Courtesy "N.Z. Listener.")

(Courtesy "N.Z. Listener.")

New "Soldier'S Tale"

A new version of the Suite from The Soldier's Tale is quite superior to the composer's earlier release (also Philips) for its greater clarity. The interpretation (or is it merely the technician?) of the new version emphasises the violin and double bass. I must confess, though, to preferring the dramatic percussion finish of the earlier version to the more subdued triumph of the new Devil.

Confucius He Say:

"When you can't get a Stravinsky by Stravinsky get a Stravinsky by somebody else" is one of my favourite axioms. Pulcinella and Le Baiser de la Fee on Record Society RZ6008 and the complete Soldier's Tale on RZ6019, are both not out in any other version as far as I know. In the former Markevitch keeps a fairly steady beat, but is hampered, particularly in Pulcinella, by some bad brass intonation. I am interested in the Tschaikovsky-derived Le Baiser because general opinion ranks this work fairly low down on Stravinsky's opus—it therefore seems quite likely to turn out to be one of his most important works. Both this and Pulcinella are interesting studies in orchestration. The second movement of Pulcinella, and the horn quartet passages of Le Baiser are particularly beautiful.

As for the complete Soldier's Tale, it fills an important gap, certainly, and the new English translation is infinitely better than the old doggerel. Helpmann, at the head of the speaking cast, is a chilling Devil: under his direction the story is a great dramatic success. But the music is no more than adequately played, alas: and I felt tempted to use only the speaking part and supply the music from Stravinsky's new version, from another set.

Firebird Suite—Le Sacre du Printemps (Coronet KLC 2786) Symphony in C (1940)—Cantata (1952) (Coronet KLC 2787) Agon—Canticum Sacrum (Coronet KLC 2788) ! Igor Stravinsky Conducts 1961 Movements for Piano and Orchestra; Double Canon for String Quartet; Epitaphium for Flute, Clarinet and Harp; Octet for Wind Instruments; L'Histoire du Soldat (suite) (Coronet KLC 2789). Stravinsky — Pulcinella — Le Baiser de la Fee (Record Society: Markevitch/RZ6008) L'Histoire du Soldat (complete) (Record Society: Pritchard/ RZ6019).