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This was another unusual work, albeit one that had received one prior performance here, and that by Mr Boulez in 1972. Four Russian Peasant Songs is scored for soprano soloist, female voices and four horns. Marie Masters was the soloist, and the hornists were Richard King, David Brockett, Hans Clebsch and Richard Solis. Sung in the original Russian, the English words were projected overhead. Lasting perhaps one minute each, they were gone before one realized quite what was happening. It appeared they were involved with fortune-telling, or a golden pike (fish) and in one of them, fleas and lice. And then there were choral shouts of 'Slava!' or Glory! Based on Russian folktales, Stravinsky wrote his own music to match them. They might make a more lasting impression with more frequent hearing.

The Wedding or Les Noces was the third oddity of the evening, although perhaps not quite in the same rare category as the two previous works, having had two previous performances here, in 1965 and 1972. Along with the chorus, there are four pianos, tympani, and a fascinating assortment of percussion instruments -- xylophone, crotales, bell, snare drum, side drum, bass drum, tambourine, cymbals and triangle.

The cantata, sung in Russian with English surtitles, incorporated peasant wedding traditions along with the normal emotions of the bride and her mother (from any level of society), groom and his parents, plus the villagers, priest, etc. It is much more Russian-sounding than most of Stravinsky's works. Although usually fast-paced, there were two beautiful, drawn-out solos -- one for the bride's mother, (Susan Narucki) and one for the groom (Laurent Naouri). The latter was particularly effective.

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Copyright © 9 May 2005 Kelly Ferjutz, Cleveland USA


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