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Igor Stravinsky composed songs throughout his life. These were quite personal creations for the most part, in inspiration and in choice of text, and they provide compact and lyrical distillations of his sylistic growth and obsessions. The four Pribaoutki date from 1914, when Stravinsky was collecting Russian folk verse for Les noces, and they reveal his idiosyncratic way with Russian traditional sources. According to the composer, “The word pribaoutki denotes a form of popular Russian verse to which the nearest English parallel is the limerick… According to popular tradition they derive from a type of game in which someone says a word, which someone else then adds to, and which third and fourth persons develop, and so on, with utmost speed.”

Something of Les noces seems reflected in the scoring of the Pribaoutki, which were sung with piano accompaniment in Paris in May 1919, and had their ensemble premiere the following month in Vienna. Anton Webern was on hand at the Vienna premiere and wrote to Alban Berg: “These songs are wonderful. This music moves me completely beyond belief.”