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Originally titled ‘Aylesbury Games round a Little Tune’, the work is, in effect, a set of three rhapsodic variations on a simple theme heard at the outset of the first movement. The first seven notes give the ‘little tune’ its character. The connection between the first and second movements is simply a matter of key change (C major to A minor) and time signature (4/4 to 6/8). The third movement, however, inverts and partially disguises the tune. Elaborate divisi passages and complex textures are again the order of the day. As for the tune itself, it is evidently Boughton’s own, though derived (probably unconsciously) from ‘The Seagull of the Land-under-Waves’, one of the Hebridean folksongs collected and published by Marjory Kennedy-Fraser that had already served Sir Granville Bantock’s remarkable Hebridean Symphony (1913). Boughton was a master of melodies so natural and unselfconscious as to be easily mistaken for genuine folksong and, as Vaughan Williams once found, could even mislead the experienced collector!
from notes by Michael Hurd © 2000