K083 Four [Russian] Songs

deutsch K083 Vier [Russische] Lieder

K83 Four [Russian] Songs

for voice, flute, harp and guitar – Vier [Russische] Lieder für Singstimme, Flöte, Harfe und Gitarre – Quatre Chants [Russes] pour voix, flûte, harpe et guitare – Quattro Canti [russi] per voce, flauto, arpa e chitarra

Title: The original printed title of the songs as presented in the outer and inner titles of the first printed version reads ‘Four Songs for voice, flute, harp and guitar’ without any further translation into a foreign language; the word ‘Russian’ however is inserted on the main title of the first page of music. It is undisputed that Strawinsky only had in mind four songs without any adjectival addition in order to avoid any confusion with his Quatre Chants Russes, which were written for Maja de Strozzi-Pečic and printed in 1920. – The translation of the English title into French in the CD version is questionable. Instead of Chants in the original, the translation, as well as in the original Quatre Chants Russes, uses Chansons, which in this case contradicts the French conception of a song as well as the original text.

Performance practice: The guitar part is notated in standard notation and not in tablature; it sounds as notated in songs I and II but an octave lower in song III and IV. In the fourth song, the use of a plectrum is specified.

Construction: The Four Songs are a suite of solo songs consisting of two early sets of songs with piano juxtaposed and written in four parts as chamber music; the ensemble consists of flute, harp and guitar and imitates a cimbalom. The songs have respective lengths of 67, 56, 22 and 64 bars. Songs I and II were considerably revised in terms of their meter. The metrical construction of the revision appears to be less peaceful, but it suits the language better. It was probably Strawinsky who removed the printing errors but without altering into the compositional structure. He also did not extend ‘Tilim-bom’, unlike in the orchestral version. The few alterations seem to be revisions and in some cases the removal of printing errors. The original Cyrillic text was abandoned and replaced by a phonetic transliteration produced by Strawinsky himself for English speakers. The original French translations by Charles-Ferdinand Ramuz were omitted; the same went for the original English translations by Rosa Newmarch, in place of which English translations by Robert Craft were used with the exception of the final number (‘Tilim-bom’), for which the original translation remained because there had already been an orchestration of this piece published with the original text and Strawinsky did not want to have two authorised translations next to one another. Unlike the originals, the pieces were given metronome markings and use Arabic figures, but they received no other performance markings.



The Drake

[Селезень (Хороводная)]

[Canard. ( Ronde)]

[Der Enterich]

[The Drake]

Drake, dear Drake, Dear gray Drake, . . .*

[Old drake, old drake . . .]**

Sélézéñ, sélézéñ, . . .***

[Селезень, селезень . . . ]

[Vieux canard, vieux canard, . . .]

[Enterich, lieber Enterich . . .]

Crotchet = 116 (67 bars)


A Russian Spiritual


[Chant dissident]

[Ein russisches Spiritual]

[A Russian Spiritual]

Snowstorms, blizzards, wild snowstorms . . .****

Yalitsa, myatsélitsa . . .***

[Ялица, мятелица, . . . ]

[Vent, neige, obscurité, . . .]

[Schneestürme, heftige Schneestürme, wilde Schneestürme . . .]

Quaver = 168 (56 bars)


Geese and Swans

[Гуси, лебеди . . . ]

[Les canards, les cygnes, les oies . . .

[Geese and Swans]

[Enten, Schwäne, Gänse]

Geese and swans once flying near the ground . . .****

Goosi, lébédsi létsili, . . .***

[Гуси, лебеди летили, Въ чисто поле залетили, . . . ]

[Les canards, les cygnes, les oies, Qui sont venus de Savoie . . . ]

[Gänse und Schwäne, die einmal niedrig über die Felder flogen . . .]

Crotchet = 132 (22 bars)







Tilimbom, Tilimboom, Save the goatshed from its doom!**

Tilimbom, tilimbom, Zagaryellsa koziy dom.***

[Тилимъ-бомъ, тилимъ-бомъ, Загорђлся козійдомъ.]

[Tilimbom, tilimbom, c'est la cloche du feu qui sonne. ]

[Klabum-klabam, klabum-klabam, Rettet den Ziegenstall vorm Untergang!]

Crotchet = 108 (64 bars)

* New translation by Robert Craft.

** First translation by Rosa Newmarch.

*** Strawinsky’s phonetic transliteration of the Russian original text for English speakers.

**** The beginning is identical in both Newmarch and Craft.



Piece number I, ‘The Drake’, was composed in 1918 and was used as the first song in the collection of songs with piano Quatre Chants Russes, which was printed in 1920 and commissioned by Maja de Strozzi-Pečic. Strawinsky did not alter the compositional structure of the original. The very few changes that can be found are revisions and seem in most cases to be the removal of printing errors. The metronome marking which was missing in the original is given as crotchet = 116. As a result of the metrical redefinition which resulted in the shortening of several of the bar lengths, the number of bars in the work increases from 42 to 67 without affecting the overall length or duration of the work at all. Strawinsky now divides what was originally three 7/8-bars (21/8 length of the piano introduction) into 6 with 2/4, 3/8, 2/4, 3/8, 2/4, 3/8 =21 quavers worth of smaller units in the instrumental introduction with identical structure and running time. At a few points, he changes sets of two semiquavers into a quaver and he shortens held notes, replacing the gaps created by doing so with the appropriate rests. There are also alterations of pitch for which one must decide whether a printing error in the original was being removed or whether a printing error had come into the chamber-music edition. The orchestration suggests the concept of a definite assignation of the instruments to the function of the piano and adjusts itself according to the requirements of the compositional structure of the original. The flute takes on the linear descant parts in the piano and occasionally expands simple intervals of a second by changing the register through octave transpositions; the harp alone takes on the percussion function of the piano. The guitar is used in a flexible manner as the balancing moment melodically and harmonically, according to the predominant sonic conception. Strawinsky does not attempt any form of imitative instrumental work, not even in contrary motion, even though the guitar receives effect passages in the penultimate and final bars which are not possible in the same way on the piano. The predominant sonic conception is that of a cimbalom and what is possible on the cimbalom.


Piece number II, ‘A Russian Spiritual’, was composed in 1919 and was used as the fourth song in the collection of songs with piano Quatre Chants Russes, which was printed in 1920 and commissioned by Maja de Strozzi-Pečic. Strawinsky did not alter the compositional structure of the original. The few changes that can be found are revisions. The metronome marking which was missing in the original is given as quaver = 168. The total numbers of bars in the original and in the revision are not comparable because the original consists of 45 bars of differing lengths and a final section without bar-lines of 59 quavers total length, organised in different groupings, while the revised version does not have make a division, having 44 bars up to the final section, which is 60 quavers in length. This time Strawinsky decided not to leave the final section without bar lines, presumably because, unlike in the previous version, he was using identical crotchets without ties and inner rhythmic alteration. He now inserts this section of music, the complete section from figures 7 to 8, into an irregularly divided metrical framework which is defined metrically by the text. It is a question of the different note values, because he combines bars 15 and 16 of the original (which are 2/8 and 4/8) into one bar of 3/4 at figure 24 and the work concludes with an additional crotchet rest which is not in the original. The amount of metrical adjustment is substantially smaller than in the first piece and there are only very few departures from the voice part of the original and not a single pitch alteration. The instruments enter in the first 3 bars with the harp which plays the piano part note-for-note which, with the instruction > plucked and stopped (près de la table)<, imitates the sound of the cimbalom. In the 4th bar, the guitar, which mostly plays the melodically, supports the voice part and in the 6th bar, the flute enters, taking up the figure in the upper register of the piano. As it does so, many of the descant figures are not given to the flute but to the guitar because a guitar melody over harp chords comes closer to the sound of the cimbalom than the flute and harp combination. Since Strawinsky was obviously aiming for this sound, he developed instrumental figures which are as virtuosic as they are difficult to play, though they serve a definite purpose. At figure 23(bar 14), he changes a quintuplet-quaver figure in the piano (c1-g1-db 2-eb 2-g2), which is light as it is to be played with two hands, into a sextuplet in the flute (c1-eb 1-g1-db 2-eb 2-g2) combined with a guitar quintuplet (c-eb-g-bb-db 1). This results in a flickering line alternating between the flute and guitar (eb 1-eb-g1-g-db 2-bb-eb2- db 1-g2), arising from a two-note chord of c-c1, which is simultaneously sharp, light, dark, dull and metallic. Strawinsky waived the optional simplifications in the piano part for bars 41-45 in the original. The virtuoso descant figures here are given to the flute which brings a flickering effect to the simple melodic lines, as in the first song, by means of the combination of different registers and octaves.


Piece number III, Geese and Swans, was composed in 1917 and used as the second song in the collection of songs with piano Trois histoires pour enfants, printed in 1920. The printed German translation of the title ( Enten, Schwäne, Gänse) differs from the Russian original (Geese, Swans). Strawinsky did not change the compositional structure of the original and there did not alter the rhythm; he retained the 3/4 time signature throughout. The original version, conceived for children, was composed in such a way as to avoid creating rhythmic or metrical difficulties. The number of bars in the original and the revised version remains identical. The metronome mark which is missing in the original is given as crotchet = 132. The instrumentation is more clearly defined here than in the first and second songs. The pounding figure in the piano is given solely to the guitar, which plays a four-part chord (c#-d-c#1- d2) in semiquavers for 22 bars. The flute and harp are used sparingly with the latter being used here as a melodic rather than a chordal instrument and not as support for the voice part, which it either punctuates or compliments in two parts. In the context of the set, the song functions as a slower moment before the finale, ‘Tilimbom’.


Piece number IV, ‘Tilim-Bom’ was composed in 1915 and used as the first song in the collection of piano songs Trois histoires pour enfants (printed in 1920). Strawinsky did not alter the compositional structure of the original and unlike in the orchestral revision, he did not extend the original. There were no rhythmic alterations as these would have been pointless in such a ballad-like, quickly flowing song which is not dependent upon the text and which runs in clearly contoured sections. The 2/4 bar is retained throughout. The numbers of bars in the original and in the revised version is identical. The metronome marking which is absent in the original is given as crotchet = 108.. Notes on the rest of the original are missing. The instrumentation is entirely geared towards the illustration of the situation and not towards the meaning of the text; it differs from the simple, if fast piano accompaniment of the original. The guitar, which is to play with a plectrum and has virtually no rests in the entire piece, has three different, constantly alternating accompaniment figures, which stand respectively for the protagonist’s unrest, agitation and pacing back and forth: a sequence of three-part semiquaver chords, repeated semiquaver notes with alternating and upbeats spanning large intervals, and diatonic semiquaver passagework. The harp, apart from a few bars before the end, plays an alternating chordal pattern of a chord followed by an offbeat and its inversion. The flute, which enters in its highest register, the c3 octave, plays broken semiquaver chords which circle around themselves and which illustrate the flickering of the flame, something which is not realized in so plastic a manner in the piano or orchestral version.

Table of changes


Figure 2 1= bar 6 (last beat of the 7/8): The original two semiquavers db 2-bb 1 becomes one quaver.

Figure 151= bar 16 (= first, fourth and fivest beat of the 7/8): In the original, the text begins with a minim d#2, which is tied over to a quaver and appears in this bar as an enharmonic shift from eb 2. This is followed by a crotchet rest. In the revised version, the original eb 2 is retained throughout, but the quaver note is replaced by a quaver rest and is separated by a breathing mark from the petering-out voice line.

Figure 64 = bar 20 (= sixth and seventh beat of the 7/8): The original two sets of two tied semiquavers d2-b1 become two quavers d2.

Figure 65 = bar 21 (= third beat of the 7/8): The original two tied semiquavers d2-c2 become two tied semiquavers d2-b1.

Figure 92 = bar 28 (= second beat of the 2/8): In the original, a crotchet g2 follows the two tied quavers f2-d2. In the revised version, the crotchet is notated as f2. This is either a question of the removal of a printing error from the piano edition or a subsequent revision in order to have´the g2 in bar 34, stand out as the high point. This is certainly not a printing error in the chamber-music edition, because in the recording conducted by Strawinsky on 30 November 1965, which was used in the CD edition, Adrienne Albert in fact sings it as f2.

Figure 102 = bar 34 (= sixth beat of the 3/8): In the original, the last quaver beat is notated as a semiquaver f2 followed by a semiquaver rest; in the revised version, this becomes a quaver f 2.

Figure 115-6 = bar 42 (= last bar): In the original, in a 7/8 bar, it is notated as a dotted crotchet b1 tied to a quaver b1 followed by a crotchet rest. In the revised version, it is notated in two 3/8 bars as a b1 without a tied-over quaver with a semibreve rest in the last bar of the version.


Figure2 1 = bar 5: For this bar, Strawinsky changes the original performance instruction, indicated by means of staccato dots, of breaking off after every 2 semiquavers as if there were a rest. For emphasis, Strawinsky included a separate rhythmic scheme above the notes. He now removes the staccato markings and does not state the rhythmic scheme any more.

Figure 37 = bar 24 (third to fifth beat of the 5/8): The original dotted crotchet, b1, is rewritten as a non-dotted crotchet b1 followed by a quaver rest.

Figure 87 = Ending of the piece after bar 45 (= 59th crotchet beat): The piece finishes with a quaver rest which is missing in the original.


[ without any result ]


Figure 22 = bar 10: The original minim a1, which fills the whole bar, is rewritten as a dotted crotchet a1 followed by a quaver rest.

Style: In comparison with the simple original, the style has expanded itself into a chamber-music concert piece. In this form, the songs do not fulfill their functions as children’s songs in a family setting.

Dedication: There is no dedication recorded.

Duration: 1' 15", 1' 42", 0' 33", 1' 04".

Date of origin (orchestrated): I: 1918 (1953); II: 1919 (1954); III: 1917 (1954); IV: 1915 (1954).

First performance: 21st February 1955, with the soprano Marni Nixon as part of Monday Evening Concerts in Los Angeles, conducted by Robert Craft.

Remarks: There is little known about the circumstances of composition, only the years of the instrumentations (1955 for the first song, 1954 for all the others). It can be taken with certainty that Strawinsky conceived the songs with a cimbalom in mind and that the use of a piano accompaniment was for him a necessary solution practical for a family setting. The pieces must have always had his attention, something which proves that he did not regard them as inferior compositions; in any case, he decided on their instrumentation quite early on. In the sketches in his estate, there are several plans as a chamber-music version. He took on a version of Canard, chanson pour compter and Le Moineau est assis for voice, cimbalom and flute and Chant dissident as a transcription for voice, flute and piano. There was even a pianola version in which the voice part had been taken into the piano. Strawinsky retained the flute, which could illustrate the tongues of flame in Tilim-bom like no other instrument, as the melody instrument; he replaced the piano with the combination of harp and guitar, thus coming closer to his ideal conception of the cimbalom sound.

Versions: At the end of 1955, a score edition by Chester in London was published in Quarto format which can be referred to as both a conducting score and a pocket score and which was sold for 15 shillings. The London contributory copy was deposited on 11th October 1955. The first printing ran to 500 copies of which 308 were sold up to 30th June 1962. On the outer title page of the original edition, a pocket score was advertised at a price of 5 shillings. There is no copy of this edition in the British Library nor in Strawinsky’s estate. It must therefore be assumed that this was an advert for an upcoming edition from the publishers which was not realised (possibly). The parts were only available to hire during Strawinsky’s lifetime and the set of parts was only made available to buy from 1980.

Historical Recordings: Hollywood 28th July 1955, Marni Nixon (Soprano), Arthur Gleghorn (Flute), Dorothy Remsen (Harp), Jack Marshall (Guitar) under the direction of Igor Strawinsky; Hollywood 30th November 1965, Adrienne Albert (Mezzo soprano), Louise de Tullo (Flute), Dorothy Remsen (Harp), Laurindo Almeida (Guitar) under the direction of Igor Strawinsky

CD edition: VIII-2/26-29 (Recording 1965).

Autograph: The autograph score went to Robert Craft; the British Library gained a photocopy from J. & W. Chester which bears annotations as a gift.

Copyright: 1955 by J. & W. Chester in London.


a) Overview

83-1 1955 FuSc; Chester London; 25 pp.; J. W. C. 3831 A.

b) Characteristic features

83-1 IGOR STRAWINSKY / FOUR SONGS / FOR / VOICE, FLUTE, HARP & GUITAR / PRICE / FULL SCORE [#] 15 s. net. / MINIATURE SCORE [#] 5 s. net. / J. & W. CHESTER, Ltd. / 11, Great Marlborough Street, London, W. 1. // FOUR SONGS / For / VOICE, FLUTE, HARP & GUITAR / by / IGOR STRAWINSKY / 1 The Drake / 2 A Russian Spiritual / 3 Geese and Swans / 4 Tilim-bom / Duration of Performance / about 5 minutes / Material on hire / J. & W. CHESTER, Ltd. / 11 Great Marlborough Street, / London, W. 1 // (Full score sewn 24 x 30.5 (4° [4°]); sung text Russian-phonetically / English; 25 [23] pages + 4 cover pages thicker paper black on peach-coloured [front cover title, 3 empty pages] + 2 pages front matter [title page, a commentary on the composition and pronunciation >COMPOSERS NOTE< for English speakers with Strawinsky’s signature >Igor Stravinsky< manually written printed in line etching] + 3 pages back matter [page with publisher’s advertisements >THE WORKS OF MANUEL DE FALLA< without production data, page with publisher’s advertisements >IGOR STRAWINSKY / Over 25 years ago the House of Chester was the first English music publishing house to / recognise the importance of, and to issue in their own edition, the compositions of this / world famous composer. / It will be noted that these works contain many of his most important contributions / to music of this century.<** without production data, page with publisher’s advertisements >SELECTED CHAMBER MUSIC / from the / CHESTER EDITION<*** without production data]; title head >FOUR RUSSIAN SONGS / for Voice, Flute, Harpe and Guitar<; author specified 1st page of the score paginated p. 3 below piece title >I THE DRAKE< flush left centred >Phonetic Russian text / by the composer / English translation by / ROBERT CRAFT< flush right centred >IGOR STRAWINSKY / 1918, instr. 1953<, p. 9 below piece title >II A RUSSIAN SPIRITUAL< flush left [as p. 3] flush right centred >IGOR STRAWINSKY / 1919, instr. 1954<, p. 16 below piece title >III GEESE AND SWANS< flush left [as p. 3] flush right centred >IGOR STRAWINSKY / 1917, instr. 1954<, p. 20 below piece title >IV TILIM - BOM< flush left >Phonetic Russian text / by the composer / English translation by / ROSA NEWMARCH****< flush right centred >IGOR STRAWINSKY / 1915, instr. 1954<; legal reservations p. 3 [1st page of the score], pp. 9, 16, 20 below type area flush left >Copyright for all Countries, 1955, / J. & W. Chester Ltd., London.W.1.< flush right >All rights reserved<; annotation 1st page of the score below type area as last line flush left >N.B. These songs are published with piano accompainement as No. 1 and 4 of Quatre Chants Russes, with Russian and French words.<; production indication 1st page of the score, pp. 9, 16, 20 below legal reservation flush right in the text box contained >Printed in England<; duration data as [only] end marks flush right p. 8 >1'14"<, p. 15 >1'40">, p. 19 >0'31"<, p. 25 >0'58"<; plate number >J.W.C. 3831 A<) // (1955)

* In the Darmstadt copy the two lines with the prices are pasted over with a single round stamp >18/6<.

** Compositions are advertised in alphabetical order without addition numbers and without price information >A SELECTED LIST OF WORKS / Berceuse du Chat° Four Songs for Contralto and Three Clarinets / *° Miniature Score / *° Voice and Piano / Berceuse and Finale (L’Oiseau de Feu)°° Arranged by M. Besly. Organ / Les Cinq Doigts—Eight easy pieces° Piano Solo / Cinq Pieces Faciles (Right hand,°° easy)° Piano Four Hands / L’Histoire°° du Soldat° To be read, played, and danced. Miniature Score / *°* Vocal Score / * Suite arranged by the Composer for / [#] Violin, Clarinet, and Piano / Les Noces—Ballet with Chorus° Miniature Score / *° Vocal Score / L’Oiseau de Feu (1919)—Suite from the Ballet° Miniature Score / Piano Rag Music° Piano Solo / Pribaoutki for Medium Voice and Eight Instruments° Miniature Score / *° Voice and Piano / Pulcinella, Ballet after Pergolesi° Piano Score / Quatre Chants Russe°° for Medium Voice° Voice and Piano / Ragtime for Chamber Orchestra° Miniature Score / * arranged by the Composer° Piano Solo / Renard—A Burlesque in one act° Miniature Score / * Vocal Score / Ronde des Princesses (L’Oiseau de feu)°° Arranged by M. Besly. Organ / Song of the Haulers on the Volga, arranged for Wind Instruments. Score and Parts / Trois Histoires pour Enfants for Medium Voice° Voice and Piano / separately: Tilimbom—with orchestral accompaniment. / Trois Pieces Faciles (Left Hand Easy)° Piano Four Hands / Trois Pieces° Solo Clarinet< / > All Orchestral Materials are available on Hire from the Chester Orchestral Hire Library.< [° fill character (dots in groups of two); °° original spelling; * double quotes („)].

*** Compositions are advertised under the headings >TRIOS>, >QUARTETS< and >VARIOUS<, under the heading >TRIOS< next to the name of the author indented >Strawinsky, I. - Suite from “L’Histoire du / Soldat” — Clarinet, Violin, / and Piano<.

**** Second line indented.

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