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September 2014
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The Devil Gets a Second Act


 Monday at 8:00 pm

L’histoire du soldat (The Soldier’s Tale) is a curiosity. It’s theater. It’s a musical composition. It’s a work rich in orchestral color, but has only six players. With a unique ensemble of actors, dancers and instruments, it’s been a one-of-a-kind for nearly 100 years – until now.


Igor Stravinsky

Monday’s broadcast from the Ravinia Festival features Stravinsky’s The Soldier’s Tale with a new piece intended as its complement.

L’histoire comes from the end of the First World War. Stravinsky produced the work in hope of driving from one war-torn community to the next, launching the production from the back of a truck. For Stravinsky and his troop it was a way to make a living. For the audience, it was intended as a momentary escape. The tour fell through, and L’histoire was premiered by conductor Ernest Ansermet.


Composer James Stephenson

The Soldier’s Tale, based on Russian folklore, paints a rather bleak world which could easily have been Europe in 1918: sickness ravaged the continent, economies and infrastructures were in shambles, some casualties of war were limping home, while millions of others lay dead – it seems a rich environment for the Devil who, in The Soldier’s Tale, makes the acquaintance of an unsuspecting infantryman.

Stravinsky uses a setting by C.F. Ramuz for the piece. In this concert, Chicago Pro Musica adds a sequel to Stravinsky’s L’histoire by Chicago composer James Stephenson. Stephenson’s piece, The Devil’s Tale, uses the same six instruments and starts where Stravinsky leaves off, working its way backward through the tale. What Mr. Stephenson envisions is a palindrome, with his piece following a performance of the Stravinsky.

Monday’s broadcast from the Ravinia Festival was taped last month. The narrator and director is Hershey Felder. Kerry Frumkin is host.


  • Great, definitive performances. A Devil’s Tale is the perfect companion piece to L’Histoire. Having an American theme to A Devil’s Tale makes it all the more compelling to an American audience.

    • Jim Stephenson

      glad you thought so, Aaron. I’m thrilled to have contributed something to pair with Stravinsky’s iconic work.