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Stravinsky: The Soldier’s Tale (Hallé)

Richard Katz, Martins Imhangbe, Mark Lockyer (speakers); Musicians of the Hallé/Mark Elder (Hallé)

Our rating 
3.0 out of 5 star rating 3.0

The Soldier’s Tale
Richard Katz, Martins Imhangbe, Mark Lockyer (speakers); Musicians of the Hallé/Mark Elder
Hallé CD HLL 7560   58:12 mins


Lockdown’s two major phases saw quite a few filmed performances of The Soldier’s Tale in its original form, by virtue of its limited numbers and a drama that doesn’t necessarily require physical contact. The problem is the hybrid itself: a lopsided imbalance of so-so text adapting various Russian-folk Soldier and Devil tales by the Swiss writer Charles-Ferdinand Ramuz, and the composer’s gallimaufry of styles past and present ingeniously resonating on a mere seven instruments (it often sounds like more). The set pieces don’t amplify the text as the best incidental music does, but have a life of their own, so it needs a very charismatic mix of actors and musicians. One performance was in a class of its own, from the Scottish Chamber Orchestra with Matthew McVarish taking all the speaking roles brilliantly. This one is better than many by virtue of Jeremy Sams’s creative ‘translation’, but of the three speechifiers, only Martins Imhangbe‘s Soldier really carries the beacon. It might have been better if the release had been a DVD, for clearly the dramatic scenes were filmed at various locations around Manchester; the radio-play sound effects just about work, but we need more.

The more lurid strains from the Royal March onwards could do with a bit more guiding panache from the conductor, Mark Elder. All the Hallé players are first-rate, with notable singing tone from bassoonist Emily Hultmark, and leader Peter Liang holds the spotlight in the court dances compellingly. But by then the dithering narrative has long ceased to interest.


David Nice