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The first movement, in sonata form, starts with the viola playing a flowing ostinato—later on clarinet—over which the oboe is heard with what Bax referred to as ‘the main subject of the work’. Two more ideas are introduced and, in Bax’s words, they are ‘worked out with increasing passion’. Finally an emphatic allargando brings us to a violent re-assertion of the ostinato figure. The tempo becomes a real allegro for the first time and the main subject is ‘tossed about between the various instruments as if blown by a storm’. There remains a short coda derived from the ostinato and the third theme.
The second movement starts with the statement of two ideas, one on the clarinet in semiquavers, the other in chords. Later follow two others. A gradual climax leads to further development of the first theme after which the third predominates, as Bax said ‘in an ever darkening mood’. Bax referred to the lento expressivo coda as ‘an idyllic epilogue’ in which returns the first subject of the first movement now informed by elements of the fourth idea from the second movement.
from notes by Lewis Foreman © 1995