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Solzhenitsyn tackles Stravinsky

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When musicians replace actors and singers

DANIEL WEBSTER


Opera without words— or singers or staging— is not a paradox.. The Chamber Orchestra of Philadelphia showed just how effective that can be when it played Stravinsky’s L’histoire du Soldat Suite. Narrator, dancers and actors usually move this sour tale of human weakness; but in the rarely-performed Suite, the seven instrumentalists shape characterizations and build the mood and its inflections. The intricate meters, the detailed nuance and color, the wide-ranging moods were parsed expertly by conductor Ignat Solzhenitsyn and the alert ensemble. With actors, much of the music falls into background, but here, the violin had more to say, percussion became an eloquent commentator— and goad. The entire ensemble illuminated the variety of dance forms, the virtuosity demanded by the wit of Stravinsky’s writing.


Concertmaster Gloria Josten found arresting color and color in writing that can sound harsh and percussive; David DePeter’s touch with drums built interactions like chamber music. The dialogues among clarinet and bassoon, trombone and trumpet gave the work lively motion, and Miles Davis’s bass was a playful, wry voice in a reading that argued powerfully for the instrumental worth of this opera without words.


Solzhenitsyn assembled his program from opposites, working in Mendelssohn’s String Symphony No. 2, the premiere of Bruce Adolphe’s “What Dreams May Come” and Bach’s Cantata 82 "Ich habe genug," with baritone Wolfgang Holzmair.








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