The Little Rifleman

The Little Rifleman (Стрелочек) (TH 197 ; ČW 436) [1] is a Russian folksong on which Tchaikovsky devised a humorous canon with friends in December 1882. Its origins were described shortly afterwards in a letter from Sergey Taneyev to Anton Arensky:

"After dinner, we occupied ourselves with writing a canon on a theme, given to us by Laroche: "The Little Rifleman". He was sure that it would be hard to come up with a canon in any interval other than the octave [...] I responded that it was not so difficult, and straight away wrote a canon within a few seconds [...] This prompted Pyotr Ilyich to join the contest, and for his part he offered up a remarkable canon in no time at all [...] The whole canon was immediately performed by Laroche and Tchaikovsky. Laroche couldn't think of anything; on his bit of paper he had only written a clef and 2 flats" [2].

Tchaikovsky's score has not been preserved [3].

Notes and References

  1. Entitled "Little Archer" in ČW.
  2. Letter from Sergey Taneyev to Anton Arensky of 14/26 December 1882, quoted in Музыкальное наследие Чайковского. Из историй его произведений (1958), p. 471.
  3. Taneyev's note of the main theme (B-flat major, 4 bars) is preserved in the Klin House-Museum Archive (в1, No. 398).