The whole project was conceived with a small theatrical troupe in mind. As such, Stravinsky had to write on a small scale, and that included three actors—the soldier, the devil, and the narrator—and a non-speaking dancer. And he chose seven instruments—violin, double bass, clarinet, bassoon, cornet, trombone, and percussion—to provide the musical accompaniment. Premiered on 28 September 1918 at the Théatre Municipal de Lausanne, Switzerland, Stravinsky openly acknowledged the importance of American popular music during the process of composition. “My choice of instruments was influenced by the discovery of American jazz. The musical ensemble resembles the jazz band in that each instrumental category is represented. The instruments themselves are jazz legitimates, except the bassoon, which is my substitute for the saxophone.” The premiere was a success, but an influenza epidemic forced the cancellation of the planned follow-up tour. It took several more years for this curious little masterpiece to establish a reputation, but whether it is presented as a miniature ballet or as a concert suite with narration, L’Histoire du Soldat is unique!
Igor Stravinsky: L’Histoire du Soldat