Although Roger Waters presented his first opera "Ça Ira" a few years ago, he is usually not regarded as a classical composer. However, the now 75-year-old already came into contact with classical works in the school choir of his hometown Cambridge and later became enthusiastic about Hector Berlioz' "Symphonie fantastique". Waters' latest classical coup is a new recording of Igor Stravinsky's anti-war piece "L'histoire du soldat". Interesting: Waters does not appear as a musician, but as a speaker.
On 11 November 1918, the First World War ended with the Compiègne Armistice. Around 17 million people had lost their lives by this time, and the further consequences such as the development of fascism and National Socialism were not yet foreseeable. Artistic reactions to the "primal catastrophe of the 20th century" already existed before the end of the war: In 1917 Igor Stravinsky composed the "small musical theatre" "L'histoire du soldat" (English title: "The Soldier's Tale") for which the Swiss poet Charles-Ferdinand Ramuz wrote the libretto and which was premiered in Lausanne on 28 September 1918. The content is about a soldier who sells his violin (or soul) to the devil in the hope of financial wealth.
Roger Waters was very fascinated by this work, as he had often denounced the inhumanity of war in his own texts. Because of the distant parallels to Stravinsky's piece, it is easy to understand why Waters spoke at several performances of "The Soldier's Tale" - which took place in 2008 and 2015 as part of the Bridgehampton Chamber Music Festival. A recording with the musicians involved at that time was the logical consequence; this took place on 11 and 12 December 2014 in the Presbyterian Church of Bridgehampton.
It is remarkable that the play is normally cast with a reader, two actors (soldier, devil) and a dancer, while in the new version Waters takes on all the speaking roles himself - "which is damn difficult", as the artist points out. Therefore he did intensive text work (changing some passages as well) and tried hard to give the main characters an individual voice. His advantage: "I am blessed with a good ear, which makes it easy for me to imitate voices,
" while the rest of the cast remained unchanged, because according to Waters Stravinsky's work was intended for a travelling stage and required only a small instrumental ensemble: "The Soldier's Tale' was written for a septet, because that was the best possible cast for him to travel with" The restriction to seven musicians, however, had other reasons as well, for the composer was living in exile in Switzerland at the time of his birth "and found no financial support. The fact that he wrote 'The Soldier's Tale' had therefore also practical reasons, because he knew: "I gotta make some money." Which was rather possible with a smaller cast.