In the early days of May, 1958, as my first year in college was ending, I wrote Igor Stravinsky’s publishers J. & W. Chester Ltd. to ask if I could arrange for percussion quartet, the three dances from Stravinsky’s L’ Histoire du Soldat. The letter I received in reply is copied below as well as further communications between myself, Stravinsky and his publishers.
And so, emboldened by the fearlessness of youth, I wrote Igor Stravinsky asking for his permission to transcribe the three dances from L’ Histoire du Soldat for a quartet of percussionists. I had to deal with problems of my own making and a few copyright hurdles proffered by Stravinsky’s publishers. To my ears, their letters, written in quaint, but authoritative English, were at once humorous, revelatory and a bit intimidating. However, I continued writing my arrangements sure in the knowledge that one day I would receive the permission I sought. Voila, it came to be. I now have two dated Igor Stravinsky signatures. [1.]
Though I blush to inform you, Dear reader, please note the absence of my signature on my letter to Mr. Stravinsky. Ooops!
[1.] I have received a few letters asking about this arrangement,which turned out to be only one, the Devil’s Dance. I did finish it, it was recorded by the Ithaca College percussion ensemble conducted by Warren Benson on Golden Pressed Records. I have three recordings dating from the late 1950s, but the surface noise makes it almost impossible to listen to them. I still have the score and I’m not sure about the parts. At any rate I’m not really interested in hearing a performance today. The arrangement has some merit, but not enough I think to justify a modern audience or me. I don’t even know if Golden crest records exists and if it does, if it would have a master of the album called Warren Benson Conducts.