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The Four Characteristic Pieces also exist in a version for viola and piano, as do the two Brahms Sonatas and the Ferguson pieces; yet there is no doubt that all of them sound better on the clarinet. The slow introduction to the Ballade is not unlike the opening ‘Once upon a time …’ of a story-teller, though the main part of the movement and the whole of the final Scherzo are both in normal sonata form. The Croon Song, as might be expected, is a lullaby; while the Intermezzo is similar in form, but not in content, to the typical Brahmsian Intermezzo in moderate tempo with a brisk middle section.
from notes by Howard Ferguson and Robert Matthew-Walker © 1997