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Cat. No. CHAN 10193 X Price: £7 No. of discs: 1
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CHAN 10193 - Stravinsky: Jeu de Cartes/ Orpheus/The Soldier's Tale
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Available From: 05 April 2004
Jeu de cartes was commissioned by Lincoln Kirstein for the American Ballet in New York in 1935. Stravinsky had for many years been toying with the idea of a ballet in which the action centred around a game of cards (a favourite pastime of the composer’s). The commission was therefore a timely opportunity for him to realise his plans, for a considerable portion of the work had already been written or at least formulated in his mind. The ballet consists of three continuous deals, each prefaced with a march-like introduction representing the shuffling of the pack. The dancers are cards in a poker game which takes place against a backcloth of green baize, the progress of the game continually disrupted by the machinations of the joker.

It was Kirstein again who commissioned Orpheus in 1946. Stravinsky was interested in Greek mythology and in musical terms he perceived the work as a restrained oration on the timeless, tragic aspects of the two melancholy lovers. The scoring is delicate and the dynamics throughout are suppressed, with only one instrumental climax above the level of forte – that which accompanies the tearing to pieces of Orpheus by the Bacchantes.

The Soldier’s Tale was projected as a touring-piece for the small villages of Switzerland. It draws from the collection of folk-tales by the Russian writer Afanasyev; but the hero’s Faustian pact relates him to a central European tradition, and Stravinsky wanted him to be seen as ‘the victim of the then world conflict’ in 1918. Shorn of the drama, the Suite’s instrumental pieces come across as incisive character studies, subtly embracing hints of the devilish struggle.

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