Stravinsky's "Histoire du Soldat": A Facsimile of the Sketches.
Stravinsky's "Pulcinella": A Facsimile of the Sources and Sketches. Edited by Maureen A. Carr. (MC 2) Middleton, WI: A-R Editions, 2010. [ix, 433 p. ISBN: 978-0-89-579643-1. $180]
Igor Stravinsky's opinion on his musical sketches was ambivalent and elusive. Tomi Makela sees, in Stravinsky's permission of the publication of the sketches for The Rite of Spring in 1969, his acknowledgement of the historical significance of this preparatory material. Whatever might have been Stravinsky's opinion on the topic, it is a fact that the analysis of preparatory material can provide a valuable tool for both theoretical and historical investigation.
Maureen Carr has enriched the panorama of current contributions, serving as editor for two volumes published by A-R Editions: Stravinsky's "Histoire du Soldat": A Facsimile of the Sketches (2005) and Stravinsky's "Pulcinella": A Facsimile of the Sources and Sketches (2010), the latter awarded the 2011 Citation of Special Merit by the Society for Music Theory. These two books not only bring to a wide audience the sketches of two important stage compositions but also serve as a catalyst for a methodological reflection on philological scholarship on twentieth-century sources.
The similarities between the two volumes mirror those between the two Stravinsky works under scrutiny. Both are collaborative works, and both experiment with theatrical genres. Histoire du Soldat, based on a Russian traditional tale, is the outcome of Stravinsky's collaboration with the Swiss writer Charles-Ferdinand Ramuz. Originally composed in Lausanne in 1918 as a work for three actors, a female dancer, and small instrumental ensemble, it was later adapted into two other instrumental versions. Similarly, Pulcinella is a stage work composed by Stravinsky in 1919-20, reworking music by and attributed to Giovanni Battista Pergolesi; it was staged with choreography by Leonid Massine and designs by Pablo Picasso. The work was presented in the 1919-20 season by Diaghilev's Ballet Russes.
Carr's dossier on Stravinsky's Histoire du Soldat sheds light on the creative process of this engaging masterwork, which aimed to push against the boundaries of ballet with the introduction of the textual element taken by the three actors. The book not only presents the compositional process of Stravinsky through his sketches but also takes into account the annotations Stravinsky made in the score used by Ernest Ansermet, who conducted the first performance. Carr also provides interesting material on the related and abandoned project Antony and Cleopatra, a collaboration between Stravinsky and Andre Gide. The 359 pages of the volume gather more than 200 black and white reproductions of sketches for Histoire du Soldat from the Paul Sacher Foundation in Basel and the Rychenberg Foundation in Winterthur.
Pulcinella exhibits a similar richness in material with its 360 pages of reproductions, including the musical sources used by Stravinsky, the musical sketches of the sources, individual sketches, and the rehearsal score. This diverse material is the result of Carr's work in three different institutions: the Paul Sacher Foundation in Basel, the Stefan Zweig Collection at the British Library in London, and the Musee Picasso in Paris. Scholars interested in the choreographic aspects will find the manuscript letters in Massine's hand, transcribed and translated into English, beneficial. This is supplemented by the transcription and translation in English of the Italian texts. Unfortunately, the heading "Texts in the Neapolitan Dialect" is misleading. With the exception of two numbers from Lo frate 'nnamorato, all of the texts are in Italian.
In both volumes, this rich collection of materials is introduced by a detailed commentary. For what concerns Histoire du Soldat, this preamble features--besides the editor's contribution, very rich in musical examples--essays written in English and French by three experts on the works of Charles-Ferdinand Ramuz: Philippe Girard, Alain Rochat, and Noel Cordonnier. The collaboration between Stravinsky and Charles-Ferdinand Ramuz was a longlasting one and the writer's contribution to Histoire must not be overlooked. Nevertheless, even though the most famous novels by the Swiss writer are easily accessible in French, more than thirty years have passed since the last critical publication on Ramuz was published. This makes the contribution to the scholarship on Histoire by the Ramuz experts significant. However, in Carr's book the musical and textual aspects are never discussed together, even though the interaction of these two layers is very important.
If one were to justify the usefulness of such a publication, the introductory text to Histoire by Maureen Carr provides a perfect example. The editor uses the connection between the stage work and the unfinished Antony and Cleopatra to discuss one of the most debated passages of Histoire, namely the ragtime. Carr is able to track the evolution of the passage in three different sources belonging to distinctive phases of the creative process: 1) The dotted theme that characterizes this musical passage--which Carr calls the "Rag motive"--is already found in the sketches of Antony and Cleopatra; 2) A longer version called "Valse" (with a final annotation "Rag") is found in a separate sketch; 3) A more elaborated version of this musical element is found in the Winterthur Sketchbook and shows strong analogies with the printed edition.
This aspect of Histoire has remained contentious. Several scholars have attempted to understand how a composer based in Switzerland could have actually known in 1918 about ragtime music. Richard Taruskin, in his monumental book on Stravinsky, states that the composer had no access to actual ragtime music. The matter, however, does not seem so straightforward. A recent thesis by Tanya Hage challenges this statement with compelling sources, having found evidence that Stravinsky was well aware of ragtime and current American jazz music thanks to his friend Ernest Ansermet, who conducted the first performance of Histoire. Hence, using the sketches to situate precisely when Stravinsky was working on something called "Rag" is not secondary but is an important contribution to the debate.
The edition of the sketches for Pulcinella also includes a rich collection of introductory essays touching upon all the aspects of this stage work, confirming the interdisciplinary approach proposed in the commentary of Histoire. Musicologists Richard Taruskin and Ulrich Mosch, former curator of the Stravinsky collection at the Paul Sacher Stiftung, present a commentary on Stravinsky's score and his reworking of his sources. Informative texts by the art historian Jeanne Chenault Porter and the dance scholar Lynn Garafola complete the documentation on this stage work. Following again the example set by Histoire, Carr opens the discussion with a very detailed presentation of the sources. Compared to Histoire du Soldat, Pulcinella offers a richer bibliography and it also addresses the current scholarly literature on the topic.
Notwithstanding the contribution these volumes have made, their titles are problematic, for they are not facsimiles in the usual definition of the term. Meg Roland has observed that facsimile editions are a complex, fraught and under-theorised editorial domain. (1) Traditionally, the term 'fac simile' (make similar) refers to carefully crafted objects that are intended to reproduce the origin as exactly as possible. Texts should encode as many formatting elements of the text as possible as well as reproduce the most important physical features of the specimen at hand, such as the actual paper size and colour. For example, Mozart's facsimile by Ulrich Konrad comes with full images in colour, a useful transcription of the examples, and a lengthy commentary. (2)
Maureen Carr's editions of black and white photographic images of Stravinsky's sketches do provide reliable sources that effectively introduce the material to the student and scholar in a cost-effective form. However, "different coloured pencils or inks are impossible to detect, which means that levels of writing disappear." (3) Pulcinella tries to solve the problem with a very useful CD-ROM attached to the volume, displaying high-definition images of the sketches held at the British Library. This is a welcome improvement. As to the paper size, in both books the actual sizes of the images are not respected; they are reported under the reproductions and in the sketch tables. However, the physical existence of the sketches is made clear by the commendable idea of reproducing the entire page and including the blank leaves as well.
Thanks to their richness and variety of material, the clear and precise contributions, and the affordable price, these volumes address a rich pool of readers. From the scholar interested in Stravinsky's compositional process to the enthusiast of musical theatre and ballet, these books are a valuable addition to the current bibliography on Stravinsky.
University of Calgary
(1.) Meg Roland, "Facsimile editions: gesture and projection," Textual Cultures 6/2 (Autumn 2011): 53-56 [page range 48-59]
(2.) Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Skizzen, ed. by Ulrich Konrad, Neue Mozart Ausgabe X/30/3 (Kassel, New York: Barenreiter, 1998).
(3.) Friedemann Sallis, Music Sketches, (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2015), 132.
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|Publication:||Fontes Artis Musicae|
|Article Type:||Book review|
|Date:||Apr 1, 2015|
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