• Karel Husa
  • The Steadfast Tin Soldier (1974)

  • Associated Music Publishers Inc (World)
  • 2(2pic).21.asx.2(cbn)/220+btbn.0/timp.3perc/hp/str
  • Narrator (concert version only)
  • 27 min
  • after H. C. Andersen
  • English

Programme Note

Composer note;

The text, although freely translated and adapted, remains very close to the fairy take by the great J. CH. Andersen. His tales always seemed to me most beautiful, poetical, but also sad, sometimes even cruel, as they dealt with all subjects of life as well as death. As in many other of his famous stories, also in The Steadfast Tin Soldier, the symbol of love remains the leading motif.

I have thought of many possibilities of how my composition could be presented to the children: a strict performance in which some of the instruments could be introduced to them before (such as harp, percussion, trombone, saxophone, etc.) and in addition, the children could become part of the performance by receiving before the concert, or bringing some small instruments (plastic whistles, percussive toys) which they would use for the part of the composition in which the toys are playing, making more and more noise. Also, the children could count up to twelve with the clock at midnight and at the end produce sounds during the fire scene when the soldier is melting. It also seems to me that the music could serve as a ballet, as it follows the text very closely and often in a descriptive manner.

After a short Introduction, there is a March of the tin soldiers, which the boy in the house received in a box for his birthday. Within the marching movement there is a scene with a paper castle where, through the window, a beautiful dancer is seen by one soldier. This soldier has only one leg because there was not enough tin to complete his body. He is attracted to the girl dancer (saxophone solo), because he thinks (he cannot see her other leg in the air) she also has only one leg. In the following evening scene the Games of Toys, all the characters of Andersen’s story are included – scribbling chalk (flute solo), noisy tin soldiers (strings playing with the wood side of the bow), canary (piccolo), nutcrackers (I could not resist borrowing a motif from Tchaikovsky’s Nutcracker Ballet, thus attempting to also pay a little tribute to this master of ballet music) and also, I have some toys of my own such as an elephant (trombone) and two clowns (horns). At the midnight stroke a little troll jumps out of a box and warns the soldier not to keep his eye on the dancer.

In The Rain scene, when the soldier is thrown by wind from the window, some new techniques are used (free passages for all the instruments). When the soldier is washed away by heavy rain into a canal, he meets The Rat and the Fish, the latter swallowing him after the soldier’s paper boat capsizes. In the following scene The Tin Soldier and the Little Dancer both meet in the same home as in the beginning because the fish was caught, brought and later opened by the cook. Both the dancer and the soldier had the same feeling of warmth and love for each other (saxophone motif and string orchestra), but this was destroyed by a sudden move of the boy, who threw the tin soldier into The Flames of the fire. Later, a draft did the same to the dancer and she was carried next to the soldier and both disappeared in the flames. The next day the maid found in the ashes the tin soldier melted into a piece shaped like a heart next to it the dancer’s spangle burnt black as coal.

--Karel Husa