Written for full orchestra, including piano and harp, the Canon (on a Russian Popular Tune) is one of Stravinsky’s least-known works. The composer originally entitled the piece Canon for Concert Introduction or Encore in the manuscript copy. Written quickly in 1965, and constituting an interruption in the middle of composing the monumental Requiem Canticles
, it is merely a minute in duration; but its brevity belies a fascinating web in the canonically intricate treatment of the famous ‘Coronation’ theme from the finale of the composer’s 1910 ballet The Firebird
. Thematic inversions and augmentations of one of Stravinsky’s most memorable folk tunes abound as they snake their way through the separate strands of the orchestra. The switching back and forth between duple and triple time signatures provides a throwback to the alternating asymmetrical metres of the original ballet score. Stravinsky, who sometimes wrote little canons as gifts to his friends, composed the work as a memorial tribute to his old friend Pierre Monteux, who had died a year earlier.
from notes by Charles M Joseph © 2013