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The work begins with a fairly extended introduction, leading without a break into an Allegro. The whole composition is based on the interval of a third (sometimes major, sometimes minor) which is heard in the opening phrase of the introduction and again in the main theme of the Allegro, though here in a totally different context. The Allegro is in more or less traditional sonata form.
The middle movement is a kind of scherzo, growing out of a rhythmical figure for the strings and a rapid arpeggio (major and minor thirds) for the oboe. This is a Presto; a more relaxed middle section, corresponding to the Trio in a classical work, is followed by a much shortened version of the scherzo.
The last movement is brief but very slow, all four instruments taking up in turn a gently rocking figure that moves to and fro between two notes – always a major or minor third apart. The music becomes more animated, but returns to the opening figure and dies away, each instrument dropping out, one after the other, leaving the cello alone in the last bar.
from notes by Sir Lennox Berkeley © 1983