The University of Edinburgh, as part of their extensive outreach to the community, provide free concerts every Tuesday and Friday in the autumn and spring semester. These are often of a very high quality, but today’s concert is exceptional in both form and quality. It is Stravinsky’s The Soldiers Tale, which was inspired by the Russian revolution in 1917, when Stravinsky was cut off in Switzerland. The work is performed by The Auricle Ensemble: a very high-quality chamber music group conducted by Chris Swaffer. However, the undoubted star of the show is the narrator, Crawford Logan, who is a very well-known Scottish actor.
The Soldiers Tale tells the story of a soldier who exchanges his fiddle with the devil for a magic book: it’s based on an old Russian folk tale. The soldier gets untold wealth, but realises that it doesn’t bring happiness and ends up losing out to the devil. Normally, it is performed by three actors, but here excellent narrator Logan plays all three parts. The soldier is played with a Scots accent, the devil as a cockney wide boy, and the narrator as an upper-class Englishman! Logan makes them all very lifelike, and coordinates well with the conductor and the musicians. Given they have only had one other performance at the Wigtown Book Festival, it is remarkably tight, and it deserves a much wider circulation in Scotland.
The music is performed by Amy Cardigan, leading on violin; Nicola Long, clarinet; Kath Nagel, bassoon; Alistair Douglas, trumpet; Kenny Letham, trombone; Neil Cameron, double bass; and Phillip Hague, percussion. They are all excellent, and are expertly conducted by Swaffer: it is quite a complex musical score, with constantly changing tempi and moods that reflect the story. Overall, the performance is a delight, and it gets an enthusiastic reception from the lunchtime audience.