The grave melancholy of the opening ‘Adagio?— Allegro’ pervades much of this predominantly lyrical work, but is partially relieved by the dazzling virtuosity of the ‘Andante con variazioni’. The underlying tension, reflecting perhaps the emergence of a deep-rooted despondency in the composer caused by growing disillusionment with his position at Kassel, reappears in the form of restless agitation in the Scherzo. The mood changes in the trio (tonic major) as the breezy, wide-ranging melody is tossed from instrument to instrument in the ‘first’ quartet with striking virtuosity. A new mood of resolute optimism appears in the Finale which even the minor-mode second theme, with its insistent triplet figure, cannot dispel.
from notes by Maurice Powell © 1998