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Name of Work

Marsalis, Wynton (1961-)
Suite from A Fiddler's Tale

Movements:
A Fiddler's March
A Fiddler's Soul
Fiddler's March Reprise
End of March
Pastorale
Fiddler's Soul Reprise
Happy March
Little Concert Piece
Tango, Waltz, Ragtime
The Devil's Dance
Little Chorale
The Devil's Song
The Great (Big) Chorale
Blues on Top

Performances:


Feb 10, 2008



Larry Combs, Clarinet
Dennis Michel, Bassoon
Barbara Butler, Trumpet
Jemmie Robertson, Trombone
Jasmine Lin, Violin
Peter Lloyd, Double bass
Michael Kozakis, Percussion
Patricia Ritchie, Narrator


Feb 11, 2008



Larry Combs, Clarinet
Dennis Michel, Bassoon
Barbara Butler, Trumpet
Jemmie Robertson, Trombone
Jasmine Lin, Violin
Peter Lloyd, Double bass
Michael Kozakis, Percussion
Patricia Ritchie, Narrator

MARSALIS-Suite from A Fiddler's Tale

Composed in 1998

BACKGROUND
In 1998, trumpeter Wynton Marsalis, who bridges the worlds of classical music and jazz, joined his Jazz at Lincoln Center ensemble to the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center for joint concerts and a nationwide tour. One result was A Fiddler's Tale, an updating and Americanization of Stravinsky's L'Histoire du Soldat (The Soldier's Tale). Writing about the experience, bassoonist Milan Turkovic said: "In a conversation I had with Wynton Marsalis for a book I was writing, he always came back to the fact that musicians in different areas of music have many more similarities than differences, but that we simply have too few opportunities to make music together. But here at last was the ideal opportunity: David Shifrin, the artistic director of the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center, had the brilliant idea of putting us together with Jazz at Lincoln Center for a month of intense collaboration. The result was a tour that criss-crossed the entire United States....In the first half of the evening we played Stravinsky's L'Histoire du Soldat. The second half was devoted to a piece by Wynton Marsalis. The idea was for Wynton to compose a work with the same orchestration as Stravinsky's, with a connection to the original text by Ramuz. Wynton's friend Stanley Crouch wrote an American version of Ramuz's typically European devil's tale, and this became A Fiddler's Tale."

MUSIC
Reviewer C. Michael Bailey has noted: "The music of A Fiddler's Tale is transcendent, not so much a melting pot as a fine traditional meal prepared from an old recipe with new ingredients. Though an over-simplification, this is a Klezmer ensemble strained through an amalgam of the classical and jazz traditions." The Klezmer element is recalled by the prominence of the violin and also the many cameo appearances and jazz riffs of the clarinet. The complete scoring is: clarinet, bassoon, trumpet, trombone, violin, double-bass, and percussion, plus a narrator who tells the story and also portrays the role of the fiddler, Uncle Bud, the Savior, and the diabolical Bubba Z. Beal. (Turn that name around and you get Beelzebub, one of the arch-demons of medieval legend, though here he speaks in decidedly modern, urban-hip accents. He's almost a rapper.) The theme of humanity led astray by the devil is translated here into musico-economic terms. Beatrice, the fiddler, leads a small band that plays simple, honest music in small-town settings, but Bubba leads her on to seek wider horizons: fame, fortune, and gold records, all at the expense of her own musicality, her soul.

Musically, the violin represents Beatrice, while the trumpet takes a number of roles. He is sometimes a partner and supporter of the violin, he leads in the Chorales and Marches, he's a brash and almost sneering commentator in the Devil's Dance that briefly drives B-Z-B away. When the trumpet comes to the fore, the small ensemble often gives the illusion of a big swing band of the 1940s, and we hear it in blues roles and as the leader of a small jazz group. But the presence or absence of the violin tells its own story in each musical episode.

The violin is Beatrice's own instrument, which at first she plays honestly, though later she appears on stage in glamorous costumes and only pretends to play. Weary of empty fame, she flees her new band and seeks out Uncle Bud, who gives her an old fiddle that becomes new in her hands. She drives off B-Z-B by giving him unpolluted water to drink, then reunites with her old band. They play a Tango-Waltz-Ragtime sequence that forms the musical centerpiece of the score, a self-described trilogy of dances that features the two main instrumental voices, violin and trumpet, and serves to revive the desperately ill Savior (as the soldier's music revived the princess in Stravinsky's work).

There's an ominous note in the Chorales that follow, as the Savior continues Uncle Bud's work of recalling Beatrice to her real self. She stays with the Savior for a while, but eventually wearies of his good works and longs to return to a life of glamour again. In desperation she breaks her fiddle and seeks out Uncle Bud again, but he has become B-Z-B, and declares triumphantly, "This band is MINE now." In the final musical segment, The Blues on Top, trumpet, trombone, and clarinet take leading voices as we hear agitated violin passages that are gradually overcome. B-Z-B has condemned Beatrice to die again and again. The trumpet's voice becomes ever more strident and triumphant; the violin has disappeared, and B-Z-B has won.

Program Notes by Andrea Lamoreaux

Performance date: February 10 & 11, 2008



Performance Audio

The audio file for this performance is unavailable at this time.
The audio file for this performance is unavailable at this time.