Orchestration: piccolo, 2 flutes, 2 oboes, English horn, 2 clarinets, bass clarinet, 2 bassoons, contrabassoon, 4 horns, 2 trumpets, 3 trombones, tuba, timpani, bass drum, cymbals, xylophone, harp, celesta, and strings. First Los Angeles Philharmonic performances: January 7, 1921, Walter Henry Rothwell conducting.
Kikimora – subtitled "fantastic scherzo" by the composer -- is more specific, the subject being the eponymous monster who, in Liadov’s words, "grows up with a magician in the mountains. From dawn to sunset the magician’s cat regales Kikimora with fantastic tales of ancient times and faraway places, as Kikimora rocks in a cradle made of crystal. It takes her seven years to reach maturity, by which time her head is no larger than a thimble and her body no wider than a strand of straw. Kikimora spins flax from dusk and to dawn, with evil intentions for the world". What those intentions are is left to our imaginings.
The slow, still, once-upon-a-time opening, with its prominent English horn solo and tinkling celesta (perhaps the "crystal cradle"), sets the stage for the arrival of the mature beastie, for her diurnal rattling and thumping, her nocturnal screeching and whistling while spinning her mysteriously menacing strands.
The first performance was given in St. Petersburg in December of 1910 under the direction of Alexander Siloti.
Herbert Glass, a columnist and critic for the Los Angeles Times from 1971 through 1996, is also a frequent contributor to Gramophone and The Strad. He is English-language annotator for the Salzburg Festival.