Instrument of the Devil
Rachel Barton, violin
Patrick Sinozich, piano
David Schrader, harpsichord
John Mark Rozendaal, cello
John Bruce Yeh, clarinet
Cedille Records CDR 90000 041
On Instrument of the Devil
, gifted young violinist Rachel Barton Pine displays her technical prowess and the instrument's emotional range in an unusual, virtuosic program that, in her words, offers listeners something other than "the usual potpourri of encores."
This CD explores the mythic and frequent literary associations of the violin with death the Devil, inspired in part by pianist Earl Wild's recording of Liszt's music on diabolical themes (The Demonic Liszt), Miss Barton says. An essay by musicologist Todd E. Sullivan of Indiana State University traces the origins of the violin's otherworldly associations back to ancient Greek religious cults, who identified musical instruments with deities and their ethical attributes. By the 1500s, violins were linked with dancing, an activity denounced by religious conservatives. Tales of demonically endowed fiddle players first emerged during the 17th century -- an image that endures in today's pop culture.
Miss Barton says she has been fascinated by the paradox that the violin has developed a diabolical image in popular imagination, while at the same time it symbolizes the sound of tender emotions and romantic love. "In the movies, when people fall in love you hear violins," she says.
The CD opens with a dramatic prelude: the violin-made sound of bells tolling midnight in Saint-Saens' arrangement of his symphonic poem Danse Macabre, Op. 40. With a penchant for historically informed performances, Mss Barton performs Tartini's Sonata in G minor ("The Devil's Trill") from a 1798 first edition, rather than Kreisler's familiar, romanticized version. She's joined by harpsichordist David Schrader and cellist John Mark Rozendaal from her acclaimed recording of Handel violin Sonatas.
Liszt's Mephisto Waltz is a piano piece that depicts the Devil playing a frenzied dance on the violin. In a turnabout, Miss Barton performs Nathan Milstein's monstrously challenging arrangement for solo violin. Bazzini's Round of the Goblins is one of Miss Barton's standard encores. Even without the theatrics of live performance, this addictive musical confection is a crowd-pleaser.
In the great tradition of virtuoso violinist-composer-arrangers, Miss Barton co-wrote and performs, with pianist Sinozich, and original transcription of Berlioz's Dream of a Witches' Sabbath from Symphonie fantastique, Op. 14 -- a familiar theme in an unusual guise. "I tried to stay true to Berlioz's score, without any gratuitous technical display," Miss Barton says. "But the arrangement turned out to be demanding nevertheless."
Polish violinist Pawel Kochanski, a contemporary of Manuel de Falla, transcribed several of the Spanish composer's works. Miss Barton performs his version of the Dance of Terror from El amor brujo (Love, The Magician), depicting the ill-timed appearance of a lover's angry ghost.
Heinrich Wilhelm Ernst's Grand Caprice on Schubert's Der Erlkönig, Op. 26, is considered one of the most difficult works ever written for solo violin. The violin assumes three vocal roles and the piano's ubiquitous galloping-horse leitmotiv. The demands of providing distinct characterizations for the father, the young son, and the demonic Erl-King intent on stealing the child's spirit, make this piece, in Miss Barton's words, "a real finger-twister."
No disc exploring the associations between the Devil and the violin would be complete without a work by the great nineteenth-century virtuoso Niccolo Paganini. Miss Barton, winner of the Paganini Caprice Prize at both the Szigeti (Budapest, 1992) and Paganini (Genoa, 1993) competitions, has chosen to include Paganini's The Witches, Op. 8. This work displays the composer's "whole bag of virtuoso tricks," Sullivan writes. "Technical difficulties . . . combined with the enchanted subject matter helped foster the growing association between Paganini and the Devil."
Stravinsky's The Devil's Dance comes from the trio version of his L'Histoire du soldat. "I feel a real affinity for Stravinsky's percussive, rhythmic use of the violin. It's a different approach to the instrument," Miss Barton says.
Of the many instrumental fantasies based on Gounod's Faust opera, Wieniawski's is the most familiar for violin -- and the most physically challenging. But Miss Barton and producer James Ginsburg felt Pablo Sarasate's version was musically superior and more in the diabolical spirit of Gounod's original. Miss Barton earned a reputation as a stellar Sarasate interpreter with her acclaimed CD, Homage to Sarasate ("What a pleasure to hear his delicious music performed with such verve! - Fanfare).
"INSTRUMENT OF THE DEVIL"
by Todd E. Sullivan
ZIG AND ZIG AND ZIG. DEATH IN CADENCE
KNOCKING ON A TOMB WITH HIS HEEL,
DEATH AT MIDNIGHT PLAYS A DANCE TUNE
ZIG AND ZIG AND ZIG, ON HIS VIOLIN.
-from a poem by Henry Cazalis, alias Jean Lehor
Associations between the violin and death or the devil reside deep
in the modern Western consciousness. Traditional, popular, and classical
music cultures have reinforced this viewpoint many times over. The
identity of the "Devil as fiddler" has evolved in stages
over the past two millennia or longer as numerous religious beliefs,
folk legends, and literary tales merged to produce a central myth.
Roots of this myth trace back to ancient Greek religious cults.
Instruments were commonly associated with specific deities and their
ethical attributes. The reed-pipe aulos, for instance, belonged
to the decadent cult of Dionysius (Bacchus in Roman mythology).
Aristotle pronounced the aulos "not an instrument that expresses
moral character; it is too exciting." The lyre and kithara
were connected with Apollo, the god of music, healing, archery,
and the sun. Accordingly, string instruments were thought to possess
enormous restorative powers.
This correlation between musical instruments and moral states appealed
to early Christians. Medieval society invoked music to rationalize
the constant intrusions of warfare, plague, and death. In literature
and folk lore, the sound of pipes frequently accompanied Death on
his gruesome rounds. During the Middle Ages, string instruments
enjoyed quite different affiliations. Ecclesiastical artists commonly
selected the soft-toned vielle, rebec, or lira for symbolic representations
of goodness and the divine. Saintly figures, angels, and cherubim
often held these mellow-sounding instruments in hand. Thus, the
ancient Apollonian stereotype was retained for centuries in Western
The mid-sixteenth-century emergence of a new family of strings,
including the violin, changed everything. The violin's popularity
grew with enormous swiftness, primarily because of its loud tone
and secure tuning. It soon became the preferred accompaniment for
dances, weddings, and other outdoor entertainments. Philibert Jambe
de Fer added in his Epitome Musical (1556) that the violin "is
also easier to carry, a very necessary thing while leading wedding
processions or mummeries [comic entertainments by masked actors
The earliest artistic renderings of the violin date from the 1570s.
In these, peasant performers accompany group dancing, an activity
denounced in the afterglow of the Protestant Reformation and Catholic
Counter-Reformation. Many writers blamed the Devil for the very
existence of dance. The Devil, as the agent of Death and creator
of dance, became inextricably linked to the violin during the Renaissance
period. According to musicologist Rita Steblin, the visual and literary
arts differed in their portrayals of this fiendish musicmaker. Paintings
such as Pieter Brueghel's "The Triumph of Death" (c.1562)
and Hendrik Goltzius's "Couple Playing, with Death Behind"
(17th century) perpetuated the skeletal image of Death. Written
documents tended to characterize Death as the Devil himself.
Tales of demonically endowed fiddle players first emerged during
the seventeenth century. The Englishman Anthony Wood described in
his diary (July 24, 1658) an awe-inspiring performance by German
violin virtuoso Thomas Baltzar. A respected music professor in attendance
"did after his humoursome way, stoop downe to Baltzar's feet
to see whether he had a huff [hoof] on, that is to say, to see whether
he was a devil or not, because he acted beyond the parts of Man."
The eighteenth -century Italian violinist Giuseppe Tartini raised
the degree of diabolical intervention with his claims of a dreamy
pact with the Devil.
Tales of supernatural contracts between musicians and the Devil
proliferated during the nineteenth century, fueled by the immensely
popular story of the scholar Faust and his calamitous pact with
Mephistopheles. Many people believed the only explanation for Nicolo
Paganini's unparalleled violin technique was a Faustian alliance
with the Devil. The Italian violinist parlayed this demonic mystique
into a phenomenally lucrative concert career. Furthermore, the superhuman
virtuoso image- long hair, angular features, sly grin, and slender
figure- originated with Paganini.
Condemnation of the violin as an instrument of the Devil spread
during the nineteenth century to other parts of Europe and North
America. Churches in Sweden and Norway outlawed the violin and created
a substitute string instrument, the psalmodikon, to accompany hymn
singing. Scandinavian settlers transported this "bowed zither"
to the Upper Midwest region of the United States. Calvinist adherents
in the British Isles denounced the violin because of its evil associations
with dance. Such prejudices also traveled with some Scots-Irish
immigrants to the U.S. Numerous British folk ballads and fiddle
tunes, transplanted to Appalachia and other parts of the country,
make reference to the Devil.
The relationship between the Devil and string music has resurfaced
in recent popular music. Bluesmen believed that if a guitarist reached
the crossroads at midnight, he would receive supernatural virtuosic
abilities in exchange for his soul. Early blues-inspired rock artists-
among them the Rolling Stones, Cream, and Led Zeppelin- perpetuated
this mystical aspect. Heavy metal artists consciously adopted Paganini's
nineteenth-century virtuoso image in their powerful stage presence,
styles of hair and clothing, and musical pyrotechnics. The electric
guitar provides a modern high-voltage equivalent to the violin.
No contemporary song better illustrates the persistence of the "Devil
as fiddler" than the 1979 country-rock hit "The Devil
Went Down to Georgia" by the Charlie Daniels Band. The Devil
encounters a young man "who plays the fiddle hot" and
challenges him to a musical duel, the outcome of which is unexpected:
After centuries of bargaining, humankind has finally produced a
musician whose natural skills surpass the Devil's.
Four symphonic poems lie buried within the enormous orchestral
catalogue of French composer, organist, and pianist Camille Saint-Saens
(1835-1921). The first, second, and fourth drew their inspi- ration
from the mythological accounts of Omphale, Phaeton, and Hercules.
The third, however, corresponded to a contemporary poem by Henri
Cazalis (alias lean Lahor). These verses, quoted above, tell of
a frenzied demonic dance that takes place after the stroke of midnight-
the witching hour. Saint-Saens completed his Danse macabre in 1875
and published the score a year later. He also made several arrangements,
including for violin and piano and for two pianos.
Some orchestral players rebelled against the literal representation
in Danse macabre and only reluctantly participated in the premiere
at a February 3, 1875 program of the Concert National under Edouard
Colonne. The critic Adolphe Julien complained that the piece "has
everything but a musical idea, good or bad." He continued by
describing it as either "an aberration or a hoax." Audiences,
on the other hand, took enormous glee in the fiendish orchestral
score. The bells toll midnight on All Hallow's Eve. Death, playing
an oddly mistuned violin, summons skeletons (depicted in the orchestral
version by the rattling "bones" of a xylophone) from their
graves to dance a macabre waltz- an ominous parody of the Dies irae
chant from the Mass for the Dead. These spectral figures dance until
the rooster crows dawn, then they return to their tombs until the
Giuseppe Tartini (1692-1770) was born in Pirano, Istria
(then part of the republic of Venice, now located in Slovenia).
His family encouraged him to enter the priesthood, but Tartini opted
for a career in law and an avocation as a fencer. His marriage in
1710 resulted in further conflict with church authorities, and he
fled to a monastery at Assisi where he resolved to become a professional
violinist. Tartini spent the majority of his career as principal
violinist and leader of the orchestra at St. Anthony's Basilica
in Padua, except for short periods in Venice and Prague. In addition
to his sonatas and concertos, he wrote and published several influential
treatises on violin and bowing technique and on theoretical and
acoustical aspects of music.
The Sonata in G Minor, known as the Devil's Trill, is shrouded
in mystery. During a visit to Padua, the French astronomer Joseph
Jerome de Lalande heard Tartini relate his Faustian story:
"One night in 1713, [Tartini] dreamed that he had made a contract
with the Devil, who happened to be in his service. Whatever Tartini
wanted was granted to him, and all his wishes were anticipated by
his new servant, who gave him a violin to see if he could play anything
harmonious. But what was Tartini's surprise when he heard [himself
play] a sonata so original and lovely and performed with such perfection
and meaning that he could never have imagined anything like it!
He experienced such amazement, admiration, and delight that he was
breathless. His strong emotion woke him, and he immediately seized
his violin in the hope that he would be able to remember at least
part of what he heard, but in vain. The piece that Tartini composed
then is indeed the best of all that he has ever done, and he calls
it The Devil's Sonata. But the former one that amazed him was so
much better than his own that he would have broken his violin and
given up music forever if only he could have had it."
Tartini's programmatic writing is not limited to this work; other
sonatas are named Didone abbandonata (Dido Abandoned), The Emperor,
and The Dear Shade. Many have questioned the date of Tartini's fiendish
dream and the resulting Devil's Sonata, suggesting alternate dates
between 1720 and 1740. A gentle siciliano sets a tranquil scene
before the demonic encounter. The subsequent movement, performed
in the "appropriate tempo of the Tartini school," provides
a lively preamble to the dramatic finale. Tartini composed an unusual
final movement in which slow segments, entitled "The Dream
of the Master," alternate with faster portions containing the
celebrated "Devil's Trill."
Many modern violinists perform from Fritz Kreisler's edition. Kreisler
eliminated double-stops in the siciliano, included his own harmonies
(different from the sometimes jarring chords indicated by Tartini's
bass line in the accompaniment), and added a cadenza before the
end of the final movement. Rachel Barton performs from the first
edition, published by jean Baptiste Cartier in his L'Art du Violon
ou Collection Choisie clans les Sonatas des Ecoles Italienne, Francaise
et Allemande, an anthology issued in Paris in December 1798.
The Hungarian pianist Franz Liszt (1811-86) emulated Nicolo
Paganini's transcendant virtuosity and stage demeanor and, like
Paganini, Liszt was believed to have given his soul to the Devil
in exchange for his exceptional musical abilities. Amy Fay, one
of Liszt's American students, characterized him in diabolic terms:
"His mouth turns up at the corners, which gives him a most
crafty and Mephistophelean expression when he smiles, and his whole
appearance and manner have a sort of Jesuitical elegance and ease
. . . He is all spirit, but half the time at least, a mocking spirit."
Even after taking minor orders in the Catholic Church, Liszt was
described as "Mephistopheles disguised as an abbe."
His compositions exhibit a similar affinity for the Faustian model.
In addition to his Faust Symphony, based on Goethe's account, Liszt
composed Two Episodes from Lenau's Faust for orchestra. Compositions
for the piano inspired by the Faust legend include the Mephisto
Polka, a transcription of a waltz from Gounod's Faust, and four
Mephisto Waltzes. Liszt's first Mephisto Waltz, written in Weimar
around 1860, outlines events in the Faust legend. Faust and Mephistopheles
enter a village inn as wedding festivities are underway. Mephistopheles
snatches the violin away from one of the peasants and tunes it string-by-string
before playing his frenzied dance. The music slows for a captivating
new theme as Faust tries to seduce one of the maidens. Again, the
Devil's dance rouses the revelers. The nightingale pipes a tune,
and Faust slips off into the woods with his young mistress. Nathan
Milstein (1904-92), the celebrated Russian-born violinist, transformed
Liszt's first Mephisto Waltz into a monstrously challenging piece
for solo violin.
Very early in his career, the Italian violinist Antonio Bazzini
(1818-97) garnered extraordinary praise from Robert Schumann in
the Neue Zeitschrift fur Musik (1843):
"As a player, he ranks among the greatest of the day. I cannot
recall one who excels him in remarkable execution, in grace and
fullness of tone, and especially in clearness and lasting power.
He exceeds the majority in the original freshness, youthfulness,
and soundness of his performance; and when I realize to myself the
heartless, soulless, blase nature of many- especially Belgian- virtuosos,
he seems to me a manly, blooming youth among worn-out greybeards;
while a yet more brilliant future smiles before him, although he
now stands on such a shining height."
A native of Brescia, Bazzini acquired phenomenal technical skill
as a youth. His prodigious abilities attracted the attention of
his countryman, Nicolo Paganini. Bazzini made numerous recital tours,
beginning in 1840, that traversed Europe. He lived in Germany from
1841 to 1845, and Paris between 185 2 and 1863. The year of his
Paris debut (1852), between acts of an opera at the Theatre-Italien,
Bazzini composed his character piece Round of the Goblins (Fantastic
Scherzo), Opus 25 for violin and piano. Bazzini joined the composition
faculty of the Milan Conservatory in 1873 and became its director
nine years later. His students included a distinguished group of
opera composers: Alfredo Catalani, Pietro Mascagni, Nicolo Massa,
and Giacomo Puccini.
The Irish actress Harriet Smithson, who appeared as Ophelia in
a performance of Shakespeare's Hamlet in Paris, bewitched the young
French composer Hector Berlioz (1803-69): "The impression
made on my heart and mind by her extraordinary talent, nay her dramatic
genius, was equaled only by the havoc wrought in me by the poet
she so nobly interpreted." The love-struck musician did not
meet Smithson before she returned to England in 1829. Nonetheless,
his idealized memory of her developed into obsessive infatuation.
When rumors of a tryst between Smithson and her manager circulated
in Paris, Berlioz flew into a jealous rage. The imagined betrayal
provided a scenario for a programmatic symphony formulating in his
mind: the Fantastic Symphony (Episode from the Life of an Artist),
Opus 14. Its story involves an artist who falls in love with a flawless,
ravishing woman. Clearly, Berlioz portrayed himself as the artist.
The woman's identity was equally obvious to Smithson, who attended
a performance of the Fantastic Symphony and its sequel (the melodrama
Lelio, or the Return to Life) on December 9, 1832. Berlioz finally
encountered the flattered actress the next morning, and the two
married within a year, unhappily as it turned out.
Several revolutionary aspects of Berlioz's Fantastic Symphony provoked
attacks from Parisian conservatives. The orchestra was extremely
large and diversified. In addition, Berlioz had devised an innovative
means of recalling the Beloved throughout the Fantastic Symphony
by means of a distinctive melody, called the idee fixe, which appears
in each movement. The character of the theme is transformed as the
artist's vision of the Beloved changes. The returning melody adds
cyclic unity. Berlioz expanded the standard four-movement symphonic
structure to five movements, each with a descriptive title drawn
from his published program notes.
The symphony climaxes with the drug-induced "Dream of a Witches'
Sabbath." Evil figures of every imaginable type surround the
young artist. His Beloved's theme appears disfigured and lacking
"its character of nobility and shyness." Funeral bells
toll, followed by the Dies irae chant. The witches begin their round
dance, which later combines with the Dies irae.
Following the nineteenth-century tradition of chamber transcriptions
of symphonic scores, Rachel Barton and Patrick Sinozich
arranged this movement for violin and piano. Miss Barton and Mr.
Sinozich consulted both Berlioz's full score and Liszt's solo-piano
transcription (provided courtesy of the Liszt Society of London)
while deciding collaboratively on the distribution of thematic material
and adaptation of orchestral sonorities.
El amor brujo (Love, the Magician) was born of mystical gypsy blood.
Manuel de Falla (1876-1946) had returned to Madrid in 1914
following a seven-year residency in Paris. The musician soon received
an invitation from dramatist Martinez Sierra to collaborate on "one
song and one dance" for the great Andalusian flamenco dancer,
Pastora Imperio, the most celebrated member of a family of gypsy
entertainers. Sierra and Falla absorbed gypsy folk songs and tales
from Rosario la Mejorana, Imperio's mother. This modest commission
quickly expanded into a full-scale "gitaneria," a gypsy
ballet with songs in two scenes. Falla responded with uncharacteristic
speed, completing the score between November 1914 and April 1915.
The ballet portrayed an unfamiliar facet of Andalusia, the gypsy
communities dwelling in the Sacro Monte caves near Granada. The
beautiful, hot-blooded gypsy girl Candelas has fallen in love with
Carmelo. Their rendezvous comes to a terrifying end when the ghost
of Candelas's former lover provokes the jittery "Dance of Terror."
Falla imitates an old gypsy dance known as the baile de la tarantula,
closely related to the Italian tarantella. Polish violinist Pawel
Kochanski (1887-1934), also familiar as the arranger of Falla's
Suite populaire espagnole, transcribed the "Dance of Terror"
and other El amor brujo excerpts for violin and piano.
The premiere production of El amor brujo, given at Madrid's Teatro
Lara on April 15, 1915, featured members of Imperio's family: her
brother, a sister-in-law, and her daughter, Maria del Albaicin.
Unfortunately, the piece disappointed critics and ticket-holders
alike. Falla later revised his score as a concert suite (1916) and
a pure ballet without singing. The latter achieved considerable
success at its premiere in Paris's Trianon-Lyrique on May 22, 1927,
on a program containing another supernaturally inspired piece, Stravinsky's
L'histoire du soldat (The Soldier's Tale).
"Ernst was the greatest violinist I have ever heard. He towered
above all others." This endorsement by Joseph Joachim (the
violinist identified with Johannes Brahms's solo violin works) was
superlative praise during the age of virtuosos. Some listeners claimed
Ernst's technique surpassed even Paganini's. A native son of Moravia,
Heinrich Wilhelm Ernst (1814-65) entered the Vienna Conservatory
at eleven for studies in violin with Joseph Boehm and composition
with Ignaz Xaver, Ritter von Seyfried. After attending one of Paganini's
performances in Vienna, Ernst devoted himself to attaining equal
heights of virtuosity. His astounding technique shone through every
original set of variations, poetic movement, and concerto for violin.
Ernst composed the Grand Caprice on Schubert's Der Erlkonig, Opus
26 in Hamburg in 1854. Each aspect of Schubert's demonic song (based
on a text by Goethe)- galloping triplets, frantic cries for help,
the alluring, deadly entreaties of the Erl-King, and the father's
desperate attempts to comfort his dying son- is transferred to the
unaccompanied violin, producing one of the most difficult works
ever written for the instrument.
One of the most popular melodies of the early-nineteenth century
came from the ballet Die Zauberschwestern im Beneventer Walde (The
Magic Sisters in the Beneventan Woods), produced in 1802 in Vienna.
Franz Xaver Sussmayr (known for his completion of Mozart's unfinished
Requiem) wrote the score, and Salvatore Vigano created the choreography.
Vigano staged numerous acclaimed ballets for the Hoftheater, including
Beethoven's The Creatures of Prometheus, in the early part of the
century. He revised the Sussmayr collaboration as Le nozze di Benevento
for an 1813 performance at La Scala in Milan. Audience and critical
reactions were mixed: some praised Vigano's innovative production,
while others decried the "hodgepodge of diabolical and grotesque
inventions." The ballet made a lasting impression on at least
one attendee, the violin virtuoso Nicolo Paganini (1782-1840),
who soon composed a set of variations on Sussmayr's music for the
entrance of the witches. (Beginning violinists today will recognize
this tune from Shinichi Suzuki's Book 2. Some teachers have their
students dance a "witches dance" while playing this piece.)
Paganini entitled his variations Le streghe (The Witches), opus
8, although one English-language publication called them Paganini's
A grand, majestic introduction for violin and piano acquaints the
listener with tempo changes built into Sussmayr's theme and the
virtuosity of the ensuing variations. Three central variations and
an intermediate section marked "Minore" display Paganini's
whole bag of virtuoso tricks: multiple stops in Variation I; rapid
crossings over multiple strings, pizzicatos, and harmonics in Variation
II; chromatic runs in octaves in the Minore; and runs up and down
the G string alternated with multiple harmonics in Variation III.
After all this, the Finale presents a blazing display of violin
pyrotechnics, including runs, arpeggios, and harmonics played high
on the instrument's G-string.
Technical difficulties inherent in Le streghe combined with the
enchanted subject matter helped foster the growing association between
Paganini and the Devil. A Viennese gentleman envisioned a demon
hovering over the violinist as he performed this music. Paganini
published a letter, with the help of Francois-Joseph Fetis, in the
Revue musicale (183 1) describing this "ridiculous" event:
"One individual, who appeared to me of a sallow complexion,
melancholy air, and bright eye, affirmed that he . . . had distinctly
seen, while I was playing the variations, the Devil at my elbow,
directing my arm and guiding my bow. My resemblance to [the Devil]
was a proof of my origin. He was clothed in red, had horns on his
head, and carried his tail between his legs." Paganini attempted
to dissociate himself from the demonic image, going so far as to
publish a loving, God-filled letter from his mother in a Prague
newspaper (1828) as evidence against rumors that he was the Devil's
Nature did little to assist these efforts. The violinist suffered
from constant ill health that left him lanky, drawn, and pale. Paganini
began taking a popular elixir that apparently caused depression
and stagefright. His dispassionate stage presence grew more startling
when Paganini had his bottom teeth removed -perhaps another unfortunate
result of his "medical" treatment- leaving his mouth in
a permanent devilish smirk.
Igor Stravinsky (1882-1971) discovered two folk stories
about the encounters of a Soldier with the Devil while leafing through
a published folk collection that Alexander Afanasiev compiled during
the brutality of the Russo-Turkish wars. Stravinsky mentioned these
tales to novelist C.F. Ramuz, who immediately recognized their theatrical
potential. Collaboratively, they conceived L'histoire du soldat
(The Soldier's Tale), a stage narration with incidental music for
chamber ensemble. The first performance took place at the Theatre
Municipal in Lausanne, Switzerland on September 28, 1918.
The normally "objective" composer experienced a haunting
vision while writing this piece. Stravinsky imagined "a young
gypsy sitting by the edge of the road. She had a child on her lap
for whose entertainment she was playing a violin . . . The child
was very enthusiastic about the music and applauded it with his
little hands." The fiddle became an essential element in the
final storyline, though nothing of the gypsy or her child survived.
On his way home after the war, a Soldier encounters the Devil dressed
as an old man. The Soldier exchanges his fiddle (a metaphor for
his soul) for a magic book. The Devil invites him to spend three
days with him. Once arrived in his home village, the Soldier realizes
he's been gone three years, not three days. The military man attempts
to buy back his fiddle, but finds that he can produce no sound from
it. The Soldier throws away the instrument and destroys the magic
book. Later, he wins a card game with the Devil, now disguised as
a virtuoso violinist, and recovers the fiddle. The Soldier's music
revives a sleeping Princess, winning her hand in marriage, The Devil
next appears as himself. The Soldier fiddles him into unconsciousness
("The Devil's Dance") then drags away his body. After
their marriage, the Soldier and the Princess return to the village,
where the Devil again enchants the young man and steals his fiddle
a final time.
With L'histoire du soldat, Stravinsky cut final ties with his "Russian
period" style. He opted instead for several popular "Western"
musical types- march, tango, waltz, ragtime, and pasodoble- in addition
to the more solemn Protestant chorale and, of course, the Dies irae.
Stravinsky made two arrangements of his Soldier's Tale music: a
five-movement suite for violin, clarinet, and piano (1919) and an
eight-movement orchestral suite (1920). "The Devil's Dance"
performed on this recording comes from the trio version.
Johann Wolfgang von Goethe's epic telling of the Faust legend bewitched
nineteenth-century France. Its clash between sacred and profane,
pure love and unbridled lust, eternal condemnation and redemption
inflamed poets, visual artists, and composers (Schubert, Berlioz,
and Liszt, among many others) of the Romantic age. This tale captivated
Charles Gounod (1818-93) during his year of study at the French
Academy in Rome after he received the Grand Prix de Rome in 1839.
Nineteen years later, Gounod initiated a collaboration with impresario
Leon Carvalho at the small Theatre-Lyrique, after the Opera de Paris
rejected his proposed Faust opera. The source of Jules Barbier's
libretto was an 1850 "boulevard" play, Faust et Marguerite,
by Michel Carre (also one of Carvalho's resident authors). Like
many French adaptations of Faust- either in novel, play, or visual
form- Carre chose to spotlight the character of Marguerite (Gretchen
in Goethe's version). The opera takes place in a sixteenth-century
German village. Doctor Faust bemoans his meaningless existence and
enters into a fiendish contract with Mephistopheles. Gounod's Faust
opened on march 19, 1859, and enjoyed a respectable run of fifty-nine
Gounod's themes enjoyed widespread dissemination through sheet
music publications and instrumental fantasies or potpourris. (Opera
was considered a form of popular entertainment during the nineteenth
century, and virtuoso performers frequently included operatic fantasies
on their solo programs.) At least three violinist-composers created
Faust fantasies: Henryk Wieniawski, Henri Vieuxtemps, and Pablo
Sarasate (1844-1908). Sarasate began, in traditional fashion,
with his own fantastic introduction. The operatic excerpts observe
the following sequence (based on the five-act edition): Marguerite's
Prayer from Act IV ("Seigneur, accueillez la priere,"
Mephistopheles's Song of the Golden Calf from Act II ("Le veau
d'or est toujours debout"), Faust and Marguerite's duet from
Act III ("0 nuit d'amour"), a brief extract from Faust's
Act III cavatina ("Salut! demeure chaste et pure"), and
part of the Act II waltz with chorus sung by the youthful Siebel
("C'est par ici").
The son of a Spanish military bandmaster, Sarasate began his musical
studies at the age of five. Sarasate gave his first public performance
on the violin at age eight. With the financial backing of Queen
Isabella, he went to Paris in 1856 to con tinue studies at the Conservatoire.
He won first prize in violin and solfege the following year and
a first prize in harmony in 1859. One of the great violin virtuosos
of his day, Sarasate made his first tour of Europe in 1859. Later
tours took him to England and North and South America.
Todd E. Sullivan is Assistant Professor of Music (musicology) at
Indiana State University and is program annotator for the Ravinia
A "DEVILISH" READING LIST
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WALSER, ROB. Running with the Devil: Power, Gender and Madness in
Heavy Metal Music. Hannover, NH: University Press of New England,
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