The Four Russian peasant songs
(composed during the gestation period of Svadebka
between 1914 and 1917) display in microcosm Stravinsky’s adoption of the folk idiom while transforming it into something unmistakably his own. His fingerprints are even clearer in his later arrangement of 1954 where he adds four horns. The only vocal differences in the two versions are occasional re-barring, a few minor changes of word-stress, plus one song’s straight transposition, but the effect places what was close to authentic folk music firmly into the context of twentieth-century sonorities and language. According to Simon Karlinsky, Stravinsky’s mistranslation of the title Podblyudnye
as ‘saucers’ has for a long time given a false association to the activity with which the songs are connected. They are now thought to have been sung during the method of fortune-telling by pulling small possessions from a covered dish of water. ‘Ovsen’, the second song is also now thought to have more to do with the name of the first day of spring in the pre-Christian Russian calendar than any mythological figure.
from notes by Lorraine Gwynne © 1991