Igor Stravinsky - L'Histoire du Soldat

Soldier's March video
Devil's Dance video

This septet-with-narrators is often programmed on symphony's chamber music concerts, and appears sometimes on auditions, mostly because of its difficulty. Like many Stravinsky pieces of this era, the parts have many mistakes. Compare to the score, trio version, and Stravinsky's recording for corrections and traditional dynamic changes.

The three of the movements appear most often on symphony auditions. The Soldier's March is jaunty, but since it is Stravinsky, there's always an edge to it. Staccatos should be very short, phrasing precise and with an air of classical detachment, and rhythm exact! The carrot accent is equal to the marcato accent (>) plus staccato. Two measures before 5, begin the 16th notes with a tiny accent to make your entrance precise and immediate. Do the same thing after 7, but not so much that it's audible when compared with the real accents, which should be at least 50% louder than the other notes. Make sure you do the hairpins as well! I like to use the first finger left-hand high G (#5 in my fingering chart). At 10, choose fingerings that are in tune and controllable. Distinguish between accented and non-accented notes. Save some on the ff for the fff, and further for the cresc. at the end of the passage. I think the tone shouldn't be ugly, but should be quite loud and brilliant, and unmistakably a high clarinet. Stravinsky knew what he was doing, asking for this.

Scene I (By a Brook) has some counting difficulties: mixed meter compounded by multiple ties. Count carefully! Play the part from 5-9 as if on one long string, undulating, but never breaking, punctuated by occasional accents within the prevailing mood. Three before 9 has a missing slur over notes 2-8, and it is traditional to play from the C two before 9 a little louder. The mood is broken by this duet with the trumpet. At 11, articulate the notes marked staccato (more mistakes). The 7/16 bar is often played incorrectly, with people stretching the 32nd notes. They're really quite fast! Practice from the C to the G with a metronome, getting the proper timing, and only adding the last four notes of this run when you have it unshakably correct.

The Devil's Dance is often performed faster than marked. Be prepared to play it that way, but at an audition, adhere to the tempo indicated. Three before 2 (and the two subsequent passages), don't rush the slurred notes, and make sure the accents are louder than the high G (again, #5 fingering). Keep the ff until the subito poco meno f. 5 has a very difficult run at that speed, plus shifting meters. You can practice this with a metronome on quarter-notes using the first three notes as a pick-up to the E. Once you get the speed and timing down, shifting your mind to the correct meter shouldn't be much of a problem. It is traditional to play mf beginning in the measure before 7.